Australia marks runway back to international tourism

Australia’s inbound tourism operators could be back in business as early as July, according to a proposed Tourism Restart Timetable recently released by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Tourism Restart Taskforce.

The aspirational timeline charts the immediate restart and recovery of domestic and international travel, hospitality and business events, with travel between Australia and New Zealand resuming as early as July, and regional travel to countries with bilateral health agreements earmarked for September.

Australian tourism operators hope to kick-start regional travel with partner countries by September; skyline of downtown Sydney pictured

While currently under review by the government, Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) managing director, Peter Shelley, told TTG Asia the plan provides a much needed “peg in the sand” for inbound operators.

“The best thing we can do as an industry is head towards a restart date — even if we have to push the start date back a month or two, it’s better than simply hoping for something to happen,” he said.

ATEC is a member of the Tourism Restart Taskforce and the association is also working closely with members – including accommodation, attractions, tours and transport, and food and wine experience providers – to ensure they can operationalise national health and safety protocols and implement Covid-ready plans “that go beyond simply providing a pump of hand sanitiser”.

For Shelley, the reopening of international borders will rely on whether individual and group travel can be effectively “managed” by inbound tourism operators, who will have a critical role to play in tracking the customer journey for the duration of their visit.

“A managed travel approach will give government, operators and travellers the confidence to start building the runway back to longhaul travel. We are only at the very beginning of exploring this process,” he said.

Tourism Restart Timetable by Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Tourism Restart Taskforce

Meanwhile, discussion surrounding the proposed trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand is gaining momentum.

Ann Sherry, co-chair of the Australia and New Zealand Leadership Forum, said public and private sector players in both countries are reassessing the value chain of travel – from pre-departure and check-in, to the inflight experience, arrival and immigration – and harmonising regulations.

“In the same way that security was ramped up after 9/11, travel has now changed to focus on health,” she said in a webinar earlier this week.

“We’re looking to build systems, structures, safeguards that are replicable and scalable. We want to set the pre-conditions for making this (bubble) work more broadly.”

Sherry stated that “a lot of progress has already been made” and that key recommendations will be presented to government in early June.

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