After 704 days, international visitors are returning to Australia from today, bringing with them renewed optimism from the tourism industry as it takes its next step towards recovery.
More than 50 tourist-carrying flights are due to land in Australia today from Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Air Canada among others. Visitors will land free from quarantine restrictions, only needing to return a negative test soon after their arrival.
Australia’s Tourism Minister, Dan Tehan, said the plane loads of double-vaccinated arrivals were encountering a party-like atmosphere at Sydney Airport, welcomed by lifeguards, drag queens and a cavalcade of characters.
“Australia is the best country in the world and we're excited to be sharing it with the rest of the world again,” Tehan beamed.
Western Australia remains the only state holding out, but despite a false start earlier this month, WA Premier Mark McGowan confirmed last week his ‘hard border’ with the rest of the world will be coming down from March 3.
Australia’s tourism industry is eager to get started on the road to recovery, knowing it will take some time but excited at the opportunities that lie ahead.
Prior to the pandemic, tourism was adding more than $120 million per day to Australia’s national economy and supporting more than 650,000 jobs, with many of these now back at work.
“We know Australia remains an incredibly desirable destination for international visitors and we can’t wait to once again share all of the unforgettable tourism experiences we have to offer here,” said Tourism Australia Managing Director, Philippa Harrison.
Bringing out the big guns
The organisation is spending $40 million on a global ‘Don’t Go Small. Go Australia’ campaign to amplify Australia’s profile on the world stage and invite the world’s tourists to once again make their way Down Under.
Qantas’ Airbus A380 flight QF12 from Los Angeles to Sydney was the first to touch down this morning, closely followed by QF76 from Vancouver, while red-tailed flights from Singapore and London will also arrive today.
“We can clearly see from the Australian Government’s announcement that people are very keen to come back to Australia, and we continue to see strong bookings out of the US and UK, as well as South Africa and Canada,” said Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.
Joyce’s sentiments were shared by Virgin Australia CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, who described the reopened borders as exactly the shot the aviation industry needed after a difficult summer.
“Since the announcement of Australia’s re-opening to all overseas travellers, we have seen positive trends in bookings across our domestic network as a result of increased consumer confidence,” Hrdlicka said.
“This will no doubt flow through to our short-haul international services which are due to recommence next month.”
Virgin Australia will resume its services between Sydney and Fiji from March 10, although while Bali was planned to take off again from March 27, the destination has been removed entirely from the carrier’s website.
Positivity is flowing at Melbourne Airport with Chief of Aviation, Lorie Argus, heralding the return of international tourists as a key factor in the recovery of Victoria’s tourism industry.
“Today we are delighted to welcome to tourists on flights from Singapore, Phuket, Auckland, Delhi, Doha, London, Dubai and Tokyo,” Argus said.
“To help the tourism industry recover, it’s important that the Australian travel experience is as simple and stress-free as possible, and we would encourage the government to scrap all pre-departure testing requirements for fully-vaccinated international arrivals.”