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Five ships from the P&O Cruise line meet for the first time on Sydney harbour, Australia, November 25, 2015. REUTERS/James Morgan/Handout via Reuters

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - A trans-Tasman Sea regional visa, granting entry to both Australia and New Zealand, could encourage more travellers to make long-haul flights to the region, tourism chiefs in the two nations said.

Australia and New Zealand, both former British colonies with strong cultural ties, are geographically close and trialled a regional visa during last year's Cricket World Cup, which they jointly hosted.

Citizens from the two nations already enjoy reciprocal work and travel rights, but international tourists need to obtain separate visas for each country.

During the 39-day trial of a trans-Tasman visa, more than 7,000 visitors entered New Zealand using the arrangement, official statistics from New Zealand showed. Of that number, 43 percent were Chinese nationals, whose country was not represented at the cricket event.

In a joint statement on Saturday, the heads of two tourism bodies, TTF Australia and Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA), welcomed a visa that would make it easier for travellers to visit both countries.

"Australia and New Zealand are long-haul destinations – it makes a lot of sense for us to package the two countries together," said TFF Chief Executive Margy Osmond.

"The reality is that if you are coming halfway around the world to Australia or New Zealand you want to make it worth your while," she said.

The two tourism bodies said they had written to Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton asking for the trans-Tasman visa to be made permanent by the end of the year.

A spokeswoman for the minister told Reuters by phone that she could not comment on whether the idea would be considered.

"At the moment it's just a conversation by the tourism bodies," she said.

Chris Roberts, chief executive of the TIA, said the Cricket World Cup showed the arrangement can work.

"We just need the will of our governments to bring down this travel barrier between our countries permanently," he said.

New Zealand's immigration ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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