A little-known travel bubble is allowing some Australians to holiday across the Indian Ocean – but there’s a catch.
Last month Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands announced a travel zone, effective immediately, would be established between Western Australia and the islands.
Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands have reported zero coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and now deems it safe to open up to Western Australia with the state having just seven active cases of coronavirus.
WA’s strict closed borders, refusing entry to any travellers without exemptions, also makes it a desirable candidate for the travel bubble.
Christmas and Cocos Keeling Islands administrator Natasha Griggs said in a statement anybody from WA was welcome to visit the islands.
“All visitors to Australia’s Indian Ocean Islands must have been in Western Australia for a minimum 14 days prior to travel, but there is no requirement to self-isolate upon arrival at the islands or upon return to Perth,” she said.
However, people in other Australian states will have to wait a little longer before they will be included in the travel zone.
While West Australians don’t have to quarantine upon arrival to the islands or after returning, travellers will be required to apply for an Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) Traveller Request Form as well as a form to return to WA.
According to the Cocos Keelings Islands website, there are two flights to both islands from Perth every week.
It’s good news for Christmas Island, which spruiks itself as a natural wonder, after it suffered a PR nightmare earlier this year.
Its detention centre, which closed in 2018, became a quarantine station for people returning to Australia from Wuhan, the original epicentre of the virus, in February.
At the time, tourism operators told the ABC they were concerned linking the island to coronavirus would impact the image it had been trying to build as a holiday destination.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, about half of its annual visitors are from WA alone, however the pandemic has crippled the tourism industry with only 320 visiting by the start of this month, compared to 2190 for the whole of 2019.
“After the bubble was announced it took two or three weeks for people to get their bookings in place, but we are really noticing the numbers coming through,” Christmas Island Tourism Association marketing manager Jahna Luke told the publication.
“It is currently enough, we are coming into our peak season normally November to December at this stage not sure what our peak season will be.”
Christmas Island says it invites people to “uncover the remarkable surprises of this island full of natural wonders”, with it famous for its untouched beaches and annual red crab migration.
But those who visit the islands are still required to follow proper coronavirus rules, with travellers urged to wash their hands and wear masks through airports and on planes while also maintaining a social distance of at least two metres.
Tourists are also urged to stay in their travel bubbles.
“We know that holidays usually mean spending time with new friends whilst you discover exciting places and experiences. In our new reality, we recommend that you do this with caution,” Australia’s Indian Ocean Islands say in an information sheet for travellers.
“If you mix with other people, do so in open spaces where you can observe social distancing and don’t undertake activities like sharing trips in vehicles.”
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