Australia prepares to lift inbound travel ban as Scomo hints at further economic support for tourism

Australia will open its international border to fully vaccinated tourists on 21 February after two years of being closed to the world.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the milestone following a meeting of the National Security Council today.

“We have been progressively opening our borders since November of last year,” Morrison said, in reference to Australia’s travel bubbles with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea as well as its opening up to international students, backpackers and economic migrants.

“That will now be extended, principally, to international visitors who will be able to return. The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia.

“That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it.

“Your visa is one thing, but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated. And I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message, I think, to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia.”

The Prime Minister also hinted that the tourism industry may receive further economic support from next months budget, telling the media he had spent time listening to the tourism and travel industry on a recent trip to far north Queensland.

“I have quite a fair bit of background and understanding of what they would need at this time… I very much appreciated sitting down with those tourism operators up in far north Queensland because they are the most experienced in dealing with the international tourism trade of anyone in the country,” he said.

Arrivals caps and quarantine arrangements will continue to be up to individual states to decide

The Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, said the news meant we will be welcoming back tourists, business travellers and other visa holders who to date have been unable to enter Australia.

Andrews said visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require an exemption to enter Australia, and they will be subject to the relevant state and territory quarantine requirements.

“In relation to our tourism industry, we all understand that tourism in Australia has been dealt with a tremendous blow through COVID… our visitor numbers have clearly been down,” Andrews said.

“Our tourist providers have had to rely on domestic travellers. Now, Australians have certainly stepped up and travelled when they can, but as of the 21st of February, we will be welcoming back to Australia international tourists, and that is going to be such a welcome relief for our many tourist providers all around Australia.

“[opening on 21 February] gives them the time to be able to start planning to prepare for their reopening.”

Morrison said the Commonwealth is continuing to work with the states and territories on the safe resumption of the cruise industry and looks forward to further announcements on this in due course.

Peter Shelley, the managing director of the Australian Tourism Council said this news will give tourism businesses that have weathered the storm a clear target to work towards for the rebuilding of the industry.

“With close to two years with our borders closed our industry has lost tens of billions of dollars in export revenue and we welcome the border reopening as an opportunity to regain some of Australia’s tourism market share,” Shelley said.

“While other destinations are already back online and 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.

“But 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.”

Shelley urged the government to outline a significant funding commitment to the travel and tourism 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.

Image: Facebook/scottmorrisonmp