New horizons: Taskforce proposes tourism recovery road map

Tourism Restart Taskforce sets COVID-19 recovery timetable

A proposed timetable outlining a gradual relaunch of tourism and hospitality sectors was unveiled on Friday [22 May 2020] by the recently formed Tourism Restart Taskforce. The panel of travel and tourism dignitaries has been meeting on a weekly basis, putting together a realistic path out of the coronavirus crisis.

A number of weeks on the drawing board, the timetable revolves around three phases in the rebound process – Hibernation, Immediate Restart and Medium/Long Term Recovery – and pinpoints key segments such as dining, pubs, business events, domestic and international travel (including cruising), along with tourist attractions, ticketed events and cultural institutions.

The suggested timetable is spread over six “steps” (key dates), the first of which has already elapsed (8 May), and subsequent steps on 5 June, 1 July, 10 September, 15 October and 15 December.

Domestic travel, including local expedition cruises, are flagged to be operational from early next month. International travel to New Zealand and the Pacific could recommence as early as July – under the mooted “trans-Tasman bubble”.

Overseas travel to other safe countries further afield will lie dormant until mid-September, while the table suggests that travel beyond those countries with a bilateral health agreement with Australia may not resume until the new year.

According to Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry meeting notes, at last Friday’s meeting the Tourism Restart Taskforce in consultation with Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism & Investment, a “Timetable for Restart” was decided upon which the Taskforce would “advocate for restart certainty”.

Minister Birmingham acknowledged the cautious approach for travel, which was unsurprisingly led by domestic, then New Zealand and then potentially beyond, the publicly accessible notes say.

Domestic expedition travel encompassing “small, boutique expedition operators and the cruise industry” was also welcomed by the minister. Those operators are able to operate in remote and regional parts of Australia, in destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kimberley and Tasmania.

Birmingham also said removing state border closures was a key issue.

Last week, Australian Chamber – Tourism congratulated the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on lifting restrictions on regional travel from 1 June (see right).

“The NSW announcement goes a long way towards achieving that outcome by the target date of the June long weekend,” Australian Chamber – Tourism Chair John Hart said.

“We urge other states to follow the NSW lead and restart their tourism sector. With 56% of the $80 billion generated in domestic tourism overnight spend coming from interstate travel, any hope we have of seeing the sector revived relies on breaking down our state border restrictions.”

“It is now critically important that governments open state borders. Australian tourism cannot effectively restart until Australians can visit their favourite holiday destinations. Domestic tourism needs to fill the gap created by absent international visitors. That cannot happen in any significant way if the state borders are closed,” he said.

“The most desirable destinations for Australians to travel in the cooler months are those that are still closed to interstate visitors. The accommodation venues, restaurants and tourist attractions in Cairns, Broome and Darwin need visitors from our larger states to survive.

“Our health response to COVID-19 has put Australia in a fantastic position to move on this. The cases that are still coming to light are in tight clusters and are being well managed. These few cases should not be seen as the reason why we are denying Australians the opportunity to travel and for businesses to start operating safely and creating the jobs Australia so desperately needs,” Hart said.

The Taskforce will reassemble this Friday [29 May 2020], at which time they will discuss digital transformation issues.

Lead image: Vinit Pathak on Unsplash

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