Australia has opened their borders to vaccinated travellers this month after two years.
The reopening is scheduled to take place starting from 21st February and represents the first time since March 2020 that people can travel to Australia from anywhere in the world as long as they are vaccinated. The country had taken steps in recent months to relax border controls, like allowing in skilled migrants and quarantine-free travel arrangements – “travel bubbles” – with select countries like New Zealand.
“Over the two years since the borders have been closed the industry has been on its knees,” said Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director Peter Shelley by phone. He has also stated that the entire country need to put their collective effort towards rebuilding an industry that is in disrepair.
“It’s not as simple as just turning on the tap and we see numbers of international tourists back where they were pre-COVID,” she told reporters.
International and domestic tourism losses since the start of the pandemic totalled A$101.7 billion ($72 billion), according to government body Tourism Research Australia. International travel spending in Australia plunged from A$44.6 billion in the 2018-19 financial year to A$1.3 billion in 2020-21, TRA said.
Shares of tourism-related stocks soared as investors cheered the prospect of a return to profit growth. Shares of the country’s main airline Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) jumped 5% while shares of travel agent Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd (FLT.AX) surged 8%.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement the company was looking at flight schedules to determine ways to restart flights from more international locations soon.
As elsewhere in the world, Australian COVID cases have soared in recent weeks due to the Omicron variant which medical experts say may be more transmissable but less virulent than previous strains.
But with more than nine in 10 Australians aged over 16 fully vaccinated, new cases and hospitalisations appear to have slowed, the authorities say.