Travel bubble can be defined as the International travel during the current coronavirus pandemic times in 2020, between two or more selected countries.
Travel bubble is actually allowing or restarting of International or bilateral, trilateral or multilateral travel between countries based on certain parameters, guidelines and with the necessary precautions.
There are many terms through which you understand the meaning of travel bubble. Internationally countries and people are calling it as coronavirus or corona corridors, as travel bridges or travel corridors.
What this travel bubble or bridge actually means is better understood by the term corona corridor.
It is like establishing a bridge to allow travel between specific countries only. This is like a corridor between these countries through which people or various types of travellers and tourists can travel.
We can also look at it as one very specific type of travel that is now trending in the travel sector. It is a new concept and type of travel which has made us look again at what is travel how to do it during the current coronavirus pandemic erra of 2020.
It is basically a travel and tourism arrangement between two or more countries. This arrangement is primarily based on trust within these countries. However, there has to be a basis for trust.
This is because the pandemic and coronavirus is still at a stage where we are developing our understanding of this disease. Coronavirus is still developing and building.
The platform and the factors that help build or strengthen this particular trust within two or more countries to receive travellers and tourists from each other are or could be many.
First of all is the relationship and trust that has been there within these two countries. This could be due to the fact that traditionally these countries have been travel partners. This means there has been a lot of tourism between these two countries. Similarly volume of trade could also be a factor that has built or strengthened the relationship and trust between these countries.
Cultural similarities and many other factors could also form this platform.
However, coming to the current scenario, this trust needs to rebuild or better say has to be looked from new perspective.
This perspective comes from the current conditions, preparations and actions taken to contain and fight with coronavirus.
The quality, quantity and similarity in the level of preparedness and in the current stage of virus containment within the countries are very big factors that can and will motivate any type of forming of travel bridges and arrangements.
These are the prime factors which will the new trust.
The primary concept of travel bubble is to carefully, slowly and step by step enlarge or widen the containment zone for people.
The bubble concept means we are still following containment protocols and are taking necessary precautions. However, we are enlarging our zone of trust and are carefully taking in new people within our zone of contact.
You can also see it as an enhanced form of easing of lockdowns. The difference here is that this is done on a different level and scale and with different conditions and objectives.
What complete lockdown meant that we all had to stay at home. And secondly, we could go out for only and only when it was very necessary or to buy essential items or food or medicines. While doing that we had to strictly maintain social distancing.
Social distancing basically meant to keep a physical distance from other people.
However, when at home we were living together. Even going out with your own family members was safe(er).
Why is that?
Because you know that you and your family members are safe from the virus and have not contacted yet.
How could you say that? You are not a doctor or expert.
You can say that because you are living with them 24 hours and all the time they are in front of you or near you. You know they did not show any type of symptoms.
Or at least, in the past few days you have not seen any symptom or anything unusual about their health which can suggest that you or any of your family members have contacted the virus. You can also tell this because none of you have come in contact with any other person. So, you can say you all are safe.
Now you also have a neighbour. You have been keeping your distance but you also have been in regular contactless contact. So, you know fairly well that they also are safe.
If you have to say that apart from your own family who are the nearest ones that you feel are safe then you can pretty surely name your neighbours.
You have enlarged your circle of trust and safety and can now include your neighbours too. Although that would come with certain precautions, of course.
This trust could be strengthened when both neighbours, apart from knowing that their respective family members do not have come in contact with the virus, have a sound backing like testing.
This would surely tell each other that they are safe and you would also be safe if you come in close contact with each other.
The bubble concept in this travel and tourism started with New Zealand.
The country while in lockdown felt the need to better take care of all their citizens while the restrictions were in place.
They created this concept of household bubble. This we can see as allowing households or social groups to meet and come in contact with other households and social groups that are in the similar stage or level of safety from virus.
This helped in careful expansion of social circle of households in New Zealand.
So, in New Zealand the bubble concept expanded the circle of people of any individual with whom he or she can contact beyond their immediate household members.
This eventually created large social groups or bubbles where larger number of people can be social with each other while maintaining necessary precautions.
This concept or modal of social bubble is now further expanded and used for international travel and tourism. Here it is termed as travel bubble.
In UK this is being followed as support bubble concept.
Government in England used this concept for those living alone or single parent living with children who were totally dependent on their parent. They wanted to help such people or nuclear households to avoid complete isolation so that they can get necessary help from others for themselves and especially for the children.
This is what the UK government uses and explains the concept and the target audience for whom these guidelines were created.
These are the guidelines and explanation from the UK government related to how to use this support bubble concept and how such households can meet other people while staying safe too.
The government recognises how difficult it has been for people to be cut off from their family and friends in recent months. This has been necessary to help us all stay alert, control the virus and save lives. This guidance explains how you can now see people you do not live with, while protecting yourself and others from coronavirus.
In England, there are 2 ways that you can do this:
meeting outdoors in a group of up to 6 people with those you do not live with, but you should do this while observing social distancing guidelines and keeping at least 2 metres apart
single adult households – in other words adults who live alone or with dependent children only – can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each others’ homes, including overnight, without needing to stay 2 metres apart. We are making this change to support the loneliest and most isolated. It is a targeted intervention to provide extra support to some of those most impacted by the most difficult effects of the current social restrictions, while ensuring we continue to keep the rate of transmission down
Travel and tourism is one such industry or economic activity which can be started, re started from zero or even accelerated. People who we call tourists or travellers are always eager to travel. They just need an attractive destination or motive and means to do that.
The tourism industry has such a large value chain that it can have multiplier impact on economic growth. It can help create jobs and help tremendously in cutting down unemployment levels. This highlights the significance & high importance of tourism and also the need to restart tourism and why we need or look at these travel bubbles.
As we know that Tourism is very important for every country. It makes up for a significant and large share of GDP of most countries. It is also as one of the largest source of employment and also for trade and relationships.
We can source the start of travel bubbles to the first travel bubble started in Europe between three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The Baltic Travel Bubble allowed people to travel within the three countries. This was done to allow people to get back to normal life and re-open or re-start business opportunities.
However, we (at least) cannot fully credit travel bubble to this Baltic Travel Bubble. There are two reasons for this.
One, travellers within the three countries were still asked to maintain a 14 day quarantine or self-isolation period.
Secondly, these countries are very thinly populated. So, the chances or the risk was even lower.
The second initiative of travel bubble is the one between New Zealand and Australia. This is more robust and comprehensive form of travel bubble.
In May 2020, New Zealand and Australia made an agreement or travel arrangement to allow travelling between the two countries once it becomes safe to air travel between the countries.
Many countries are now planning to use the travel bubble concept and create their own travel bridges and arrangement with nearby countries or with countries that they trust to re-start travel and tourism activities.
Few of such travel bubbles that are being planned or are expected to be created between countries are these.
Austria is now actively planning to re-start travel arrangements with Germany and reopen its borders. The expected start is June 15, 2020. This Austria Germany travel bubble will help both countries to re-start various business travel trips and leisure tourism within these two countries.
Similarly, China and South Korea are on their way to creating their own corona travel bridge. This is expected to be closely controlled and tight travel bubble which may apply only to and include certain specific cities within these two countries.