The much talked-about travel bubble between Australia and Singapore is edging a step closer again, with the leaders of both nations showing a fresh bout of enthusiasm and suggesting that students will be the first to benefit from an arrangement.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has said it will happen “sooner rather than later” and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, has noted that: “We need to resume these people-to-people flows to maintain our close and excellent bilateral relationship”.
Loong emphasised that prior to Covid-19 many Singaporeans traditionally travelled to Australia for business, holidays and to pursue their education.
The two prime ministers now seem to agree that student travel should lead the way and become a pilot program for a wider rollout of quarantine-free travel between the countries.
Loss of foreign students a severe blow to unis
Australian universities have been extremely hard-hit by the pandemic and the tough border restrictions imposed by the Morrison Government, that have made it all but impossible for foreign students who went home during the various lockdowns to return and continue their studies.
According to some estimates, the higher education industry in Australia has had to cut around 17,000 jobs and lost more than $2-billion in revenue thus far.
The country’s business sector has also been pushing for the travel bubble, with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) saying it would be “an important step to reopening our country to the rest of the world, offering a lifeline to many businesses reliant on the movement of people and goods internationally”.
Chamber CEO Jenny Lambert said its implementation could not come a moment too soon.
“ACCI strongly supports an arrangement that enables free movement of migrants, workers, international students and tourists, as well as goods and services,” she stated.
Australia continues to lose billions in revenue
“Australia is continuing to haemorrhage billions in lost revenue across key sectors including international tourism, higher education, hospitality and other export industries.
“Reopening our borders in a staged and safe manner is vital in meeting critical worker shortages, increasing international student enrolments and growing foreign tourist arrivals.”
Lambert said business believed longer-term border closures and ongoing uncertainty continued to hamper employers and employees alike.
“Travel between Australia and Singapore aligns with ACCI’s four-stage plan released last month to reopen the nation in a risk-managed and incremental way that is based on vaccinations,” she added.