Travel industry welcomes Australia’s decision to open international borders

The business travel industry has been reacting to the Federal Government announcing, 7 February, that Australia’s international borders will reopen to the fully vaccinated from 21 February, 2022. Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the news following a meeting with National Cabinet.

Tourism Australia’s specialist unit, Business Events Australia, said it was excited to be welcoming back business events delegates to Australia.

The government announcement, BE Australia said, built on quarantine-free travel arrangements with Singapore, which came into effect on 21 November 2021, and for visitors from Japan and South Korea along with Working Holiday Makers from 15 December 2021.

“The announcement is a significant step in rebuilding international visitation from Australia’s key international business events markets across the globe,” Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said, adding: "Australia has long been a popular outbound destination for business events delegates, with 950,000 visitors travelling to our country pre-Covid spending A$4.02bn for the year to 31 March 2020.”

Harrison said Business Events Australia would now be working with its trade and distribution partners on a dedicated marketing campaign to make sure prospective customers know Australia is open and ready to welcome delegates back to enjoy its destinations, world-class venues and unique experiences.

Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will still require a valid travel exemption to enter Australia, and will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.

Travel specialists Flight Centre Corporate called the move an “absolute game changer”. Flight Centre Corporate managing director Australia James Kavanagh said the decision was “momentous” for businesses big and small. “It is they who will lead this country’s economic fightback – and there is no doubt this is an absolute game changer when it comes to Australia being open to the world once again,” he said.

“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,” Kavanagh added. “Confidence is already rising in the leisure space across the world – now it is time for that happen in the corporate space.

“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.

“Australia is a global economic powerhouse, and when you look at 2018, exports grew to A$438.1bn (US$310.9bn) with foreign investment hitting record levels – showing Australian exporters were navigating challenging global economic conditions and foreign investors were confident about investing here.

“We are world leaders in vaccination rates and with the gates to Australia open again we have a real possibility to be industry leaders as we open the world for those who want to see and do business.”

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) also welcomed the news, with MD Peter Shelley adding that “internationally focused Australian tourism businesses can breathe a sigh of relief and finally begin the long path to rebuilding their markets with the announcement that our borders will open after close to two years”.

“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 towards and a start point for the rebuilding of the industry,” Shelley said.

Shelley add that, "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.

“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.

“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.”