Australian tourism operators are relieved after the announcement borders will reopen to international travellers for the first time in two years.
Double-vaccinated tourists will be welcomed back on February 21, more than 700 days after the pandemic stopped international travel.
Representatives for Australia’s inbound tourism sector say businesses are rejoicing at the announcement made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley says the news will give businesses a starting point for rebuilding the industry.
“It’s been a long, hard and desperate road for every tourism business across the country and we have lost many along the way, but this news will give those who have survived a clear target to work toward,” he said.
Mr Shelley is confident there is pent up demand from tourists wanting to get to Australia.
But he warned the challenge would be for operators to rebuild their lost capacity, product, service skills and supply chains.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry called the announcement a “watershed moment” as the country starts to emerge from the pandemic.
Chief executive Andrew McKellar says it is a step back to normality for Australia’s export-oriented economy.
But executive chair of the ACCI’s tourism branch John Hart said there will be a lag between borders opening and tourists arriving, and said businesses needed support in the meantime.
He also called on the government to refund tourist visa fees and remove passenger movement charges to encourage travellers.
Meanwhile, Qantas head Alan Joyce says the airline will look to restart flights from more international destinations sooner or add capacity to existing routes.
“We know there are lots of international tourists who want to come to Australia … This means they can now book to come here with confidence,” he said in a statement.
The prime minister said all tourists arriving in Australia would need to be double vaccinated.
“We’ve been very careful looking at the impact, particularly when Omicron hit, and how that would flow through,” he said.
“But the fact is … in Australia the variant is here. For those coming in who are double vaccinated, they don’t present any greater risk than those who are already here in Australia.”
The border announcement came as Australia recorded more than 22,000 new COVID cases and 46 deaths from the virus on Monday.
© AAP 2022