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The international border has reopened, but tourism leaders fear the damage from ‘Fortress Australia’ could take years to repair

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  • Australia reopened its international border to vaccinated visa holders on Monday.
  • In doing so, the nation ended a hardline border closure which effectively brought international tourism to a halt.
  • Industry leaders say the sector could take months to rebuild, and years to fully recover.

The Australian tourism sector will rapidly regain its strength now the international border has opened, Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has declared, but some industry leaders fear it will take time for the industry to rebuild — and for the nation to lose its ‘Fortress Australia’ reputation.

Australia opened its borders to all fully-vaccinated visa holders on Monday, ending a hardline border policy enacted more than 700 days ago in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move caused scenes of jubilation at Australia’s international airports, as long-separated families and friends reunited for the first time in almost two years.

Speaking from Sydney Airport, Tourism Minister Dan Tehan today declared those hugs and kisses were proof of a rapid industry recovery.

“We have got 1.2 million visa holders eligible to come here at the moment,” Tehan told “The Today Show”.

“We have seen a couple of hundred thousand people already come the last couple of months. So I think there will be a very, very strong rebound, and everything I am seeing is that people want to travel.”

Tourism Australia’s managing director Phillippa Harrison agreed, telling the programme Australia can expect a surge of international visitors.

Other jurisdictions which dropped their hardline border policies faced a 30% to 50% spike in international arrivals soon afterwards, Harrison said.

Appetite for travel to Australia is high in the United States, she added, despite an official travel warning in place for departing tourists.

“Our partners over there are getting lots and lots of bookings through, so it doesn’t seem to be the impediment that it perhaps could be,” Harrison said.

The nation’s pre-pandemic tourism sector was estimated to provide between $45 billion and $60 billion in economic activity, making the recovery a key concern even outside of holiday hotspots.

But working to rebuild Australia’s brand as an international tourism hotspot will take some time, Harrison admitted, with many would-be travellers still reticent to board a plane.

“There is a bit of a work to do to get those other people who are just a bit more cautious about travelling long-haul at this point in time, and that is why we have got a long-term strategy here,” she said.

Hard-hit tourism operators may not benefit from the most recent arrivals, either.

Speaking to “The Morning Show”, Tourism & Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond noted many recent arrivals are simply excited to see family members instead of touring the nation’s favourite holiday regions.

The tourism bounce back will only begin in earnest in the second half of the year, she said.

Australia must also reposition itself as a welcoming destination after enforcing one of the harshest COVID-19 border policies worldwide, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“Australia has a huge task ahead of it to repair its international reputation,” he said in a statement.

Not only did the reopening occur towards the end of Australia’s traditional peak holiday season, but tourism operators could also be waiting until 2024 for bookings to approach pre-pandemic levels, said the Chamber’s tourism chief John Hart.

The ACCI is calling for further government financial support directed towards tourism operators waiting for visitor numbers to sustainably improve — a request unlikely to be granted by a government now happy to let industry players operate on their own.

1 Comments

  • Ivars

    Ivars

    4:32 AM, 30-03-2022

    Yes, psychological damage damage is done to the world population.

    0 Reply

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