Industry reacts to border reopening announcement

While the travel and business events industries have welcomed the decision, they say they need more support to help it rebuild and recover.

Following a meeting of the National Security Council, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday that Australia will open its border to fully vaccinated international visitors on Monday, 21 February.

While Australia has been closed to the rest of the world for the past two years, Morrison pointed out the country had been “progressively opening” its borders since November 2021, referring to its travel bubbles with New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

“That will now be extended, principally, to international visitors who will be able to return,” the Prime Minister said.

He stressed the full vaccination requirement as a condition of entry, stating it was the rule everyone was expected to abide by.

“The condition is you must be double vaccination to come to Australia. If you’re double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia, and I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that.”

International arrivals will still be expected to follow any quarantine requirements of the state or territory they arrive into.

Unvaccinated travellers who do not have a medical exemption will need to apply for an exemption to come to Australia and will be subject to the individual state and territory quarantine requirements.

After lobbying the government to bring tourists back, the Australian tourism industry has welcomed the decision as a first step towards recovery.

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) said that while the tourism industry was looking forward to rebuilding, the two-year border closure has seen it lose it tens of billions of dollars in export revenue, and that it would still require more Government support to enable it to recover.

“While other destinations are already welcoming visitors, Australia has been off the global destination list for quite some time and there is significant pent-up demand as we look forward,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.

“The challenge for our industry is to meet this demand successfully and that will involve tourism businesses rebuilding their lost capacity, product, service skills and supply chains.

“Given the tourism industry has taken a devastating hit to its skills base, experience, expertise and global sales networks, we urge the government to outline a significant funding commitment to our industry in next month’s budget as a sign of its support for what has been a hugely valuable economic contributor for more than a decade.”

Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB) chief executive officer Andrew Hiebl said the AACB was extremely excited that Australia’s international border will reopen to fully vaccinated international visitors including business events delegates and exhibitors.

“Australia could not be better prepared noting that seven of our states and territories have exceeded a 90 percent fully vaccinated status and we have invested heavily in COVID-safe protocols and training over the last two years. However, the pathway to recovery will take some time and will require significant policy and investment attention of governments in partnership with industry to return to pre-COVID levels,” Hiebl said.

Flight Centre Corporate managing director James Kavanagh has called the border reopening announcement an “absolute game changer” for corporate travel.

“It has been a long time coming but the critical part is once we open to the world, we stay open, and that will naturally inject real confidence into people wanting to travel. Confidence is already rising in the leisure space across the world – now it is time for that happen in the corporate space,” Kavanagh said.

“There is no doubt visas, exemptions, and quarantine have all been a big hindrance to the corporate world – and although we expect some meetings and events to still exist in a virtual of hybrid manner – now is the time to get on planes to see colleagues, clients, and potential new customers.”

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