Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today [Monday 7 February 2022] confirmed that Australia’s border ban on foreign visitors will be removed effective 21 February 2022. The decision comes a month shy of two years since Morrison shut off Australia to the world in order to contain the number of coronavirus cases. That move came into effect on 20 March 2020.
Outside Parliament House in Canberra today, Morrison finally gave the country’s beleaguered travel and tourism sector reason to celebrate. Inbound tourism would restart in earnest.
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The PM, a former Tourism Minister himself, said the only condition for “welcoming the world back to Australia” is that international travellers must be fully vaccinated.
“That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it…if you are double-vaccinated we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia.”
“I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that and over the next two weeks they will have the opportunity, both for visitors to be coming and for them to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia,” Morrison said.
He cited recent talks with tourism operators in Far North Queensland, a region that heavily relies on international markets.
“We’ve been a very strong supporter of the tourism sector and I have quite a fair bit of background and understanding of what they need at this time,” the PM remarked. He suggested funding for the sector was on the cards in this year’s budget, released in May.
Morrison told reporters that Australia would only mandate the two-shot vaccination for overseas travellers, and not three-shots as some countries abroad have moved towards.
“We’ve been very careful at looking at the impact, particularly when Omicron hit, and how that would flow through, but the fact is the variant is here in Australia and those who are coming in and double-vaccinated, they don’t present any greater risk than those who are already here in Australia,” he said.
Karen Andrews, Minister for Home Affairs said the country would soon “welcome back tourists, business travellers and other visa holders who have to date, been unable to enter Australia.”
She reiterated that state-based cap arrangements and quarantine arrangements would continue, and overseas travellers will need to provide proof of vaccination to enter the country. Visa holders who are not fully vaccinated will require proof that there is a medical reason they cannot be vaccinated to enter the country. They will be subject to the state or territory quarantine requirements they are visiting.
“These changes we are announcing today in terms of reopening our borders make sure we are protecting the health of Australians but at the same time working towards our economic recovery here.”
“We all understand that tourism in Australia has been dealt with a tremendous blow through COVID. Our visitor numbers have clearly been down, our tourist providers have had to rely on domestic travellers. Now Australians have certainly stepped up and travelled when they can but as of the 21st February we will be welcoming back to Australia, international tourists and that is going to be such a welcome relief for our many tourist providers all around Australia,” Andrews said.
Andrews said that the two-week notice (from today until 21 February) would enable tourism providers “time to prepare for the reopening”.
The Home Affairs Minister said that in 2018/19, tourism generated more than $60 billion for the Australian economy, and there were over 660,000 people employed in the sector. Since reopening borders for Australian travellers on 1 November 2021, more than 300,000 eligible visa holders have entered the country.
It is expected today’s announcement will see a raft of discounted international airfares to Australia from airlines, keen to capitalise on renewed interest in Australia.
Lead image credit: Joey Csunyo on Unsplash