18 April 2016
The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
PO Box 6022 Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
As you may be aware the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) and the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) have been strong advocates for the liberalisation of trans-Tasman travel.
In the lead up to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, our two organisations led a concerted campaign for the adoption of a Trans-Tasman Visa to allow visitors to our two countries to be able to travel more easily for the duration of the World Cup. The Australian and New Zealand Governments announced in February 2014 that they had agreed to a single visa agreement for the duration of the World Cup, open to all nationalities, that would operate between 26 January and 5 April 2015.
Since the conclusion of the Trans-Tasman Visa Arrangement (TTVA) in April 2015, the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment has undertaken a review that indicates that the TTVA was used 7,578 times to allow approximately 7,239 travellers from 77 nations to enter New Zealand during the period.1 Of interest is that the largest users of the TTVA at 40 per cent (or 3,289 visas) were from China – a non-playing nation in the Cricket World Cup. It is likely that most of these travellers were not cricket fans but were taking advantage of the temporarily improved visa facilitation. Immigration New Zealand advises that there were no significant issues with joint visa holders breaching the terms of their visas.
The analysis by the New Zealand Government would appear to support the case for a permanent Trans-Tasman Visa system to be put in place given the strong uptake during the Cricket World Cup particularly by Chinese visitors. This is a growing and increasingly important market for both Australian and New Zealand tourism sectors. Both Australia and New Zealand have accepted the need to reduce the complexity involved for visitors in applying for visitor visas from rapidly growing markets in Asia and elsewhere. Each Government can pursue improvements separately; but there is also an opportunity to do so collectively.
The temporary TTVA has demonstrated the great potential of a single visa arrangement between our two nations and would be the logical extension of the partnership between Australia and New Zealand that already exists, including operating joint booths at major international tourism conferences and events.
1 NZ Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, Cricket World Cup Visa Agreement Research & Analysis, July 2015, p. 2.
With Australia and New Zealand being considered long-haul destinations for many markets, it makes sense to invest and market an ‘Oceania’ experience to potential international visitors. Other ‘friendly neighbours’ have already recognised the competitive advantages of dual or multi destination visa arrangements – for example the Schengen zone of 28 European countries, where a single visitor visa is required. The UK and Ireland have issued joint visitor visas since 2013. In comparison, a journey to Australia provides direct access to Australia only. Travel to neighbouring New Zealand requires additional visa documentation, time and cost. A single visa could potentially be a deciding factor for an international tourist making what can be a much more costly decision to visit Australia or New Zealand, compared to closer and more cost-effective destinations.
TTF’s report, ‘Bringing Our Neighbour Closer: Four reforms to maximise tourism from New Zealand’ released in August 2014 estimates that the benefit of developing a TTVA between Australia and New Zealand could increase international arrivals from Asia by approximately 141,300 by 2020.2 Approximately 70 per cent of these arrivals were estimated to be from China – a high-yielding market for both countries. Further, an accompanying reduction in the cost of a TTVA was estimated to increase that number by an additional 46,000 visitors.
We note that the Australian Government has not undertaken, or at least has not publicly released, its own analysis of the TTVA during the Cricket World Cup. We would encourage the Australian Government to urgently undertake such a review and give serious attention to the New Zealand review, following the 12 month anniversary of the TTVA.
We would strongly encourage a partnership between the Australian and New Zealand Governments to formalise and have in operation a permanent TTVA by the end of this year. True common visitor visas could require Australia and New Zealand to harmonise entry requirements as well as establishing data sharing protocols. None of this is impossible, and as the Cricket World Cup process showed, where there is a will, there is a way.
On behalf of our organisations, we look forward to working with our Governments to advance and implement this important Trans-Tasman reform which we believe will have significant economic benefits to both our nations.
Chief Executive Officer
Tourism & Transport Forum Australia
Chief Executive Officer
Tourism Industry Association New Zealand
Cc: Rt Hon John Key MP, Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Tourism Cc: Hon Michael Woodhouse MP, New Zealand Minister of Immigration Cc: Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Tourism and International Education