February 21, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image credit: Qantas

The Australian Tourism Export Council’s (ATEC) Managing Director, Peter Shelley, has called today’s reopening of Australia’s international borders “the first, but most important step in getting Australian tourism back on its feet”.

However, results from an international survey conducted by ATEC indicate there are challenges afoot for Australia’s tourism industry in addition to those faced by operators trying to get business back on track after the near two-year international border closure.

“While the industry has endured a huge hit, the next 12 months will be the hardest for tourism owners as they work to rebuild once profitable businesses, having shed staff and depleted working capital and in many cases taken out loans to survive the last two years,” he said.

He also highlighted what the results of ATEC’s latest Industry Pulse survey, which polls in-market sellers of Australia’s offering, showed about potential demand materialising.

“While the Government has invested in global advertising to drive demand to return to Australia, there are worrying signs consumers are wary of travelling here with confusion over our various state travel restrictions and concern about snap border closures.

“Australia is a long-haul, aspirational destination and people are concerned by what they have heard in the media about confusing state entry requirements and isolation protocols should they get COVID while here.”

Survey results also revealed an expectation that operators are not expecting a significant flow of international visitors until October and that on average tourism supplier businesses have dropped operational capacity to 50 percent or less compared to 2019, while inbound tour operators are faring even worse at 30 percent.

The survey showed top recovery markets are expected to be UK, Western Europe, the US and Singapore.

With the border reopening, ATEC is calling for clear and consistent messaging and government leadership to help the tourism industry recover.

“While the industry is looking forward to welcoming back international visitors and rebuilding our tourism brand, there is a huge and complex runway to navigate and we need a multitude of factors to line up including access to skilled staff, a consistent approach to COVID protocols and ease of movement between states, along with international tourism trade educational programs and targeted advertising campaigns,” said Shelley.

“Right now, as we welcome back visitors it will be critical that both state and federal governments present a clear message to the global travel community that Australia is once again reopening its borders to the world and remain the welcoming, high-quality destination we are famous for.

“We cannot afford to allow inconsistent regulations around the management of COVID to create confusion and erode the confidence of intending travellers.

“Now more than ever we need united government leadership to remove obstacles impeding the recovery of our $45 billion tourism export sector.”

International flights from the USA, Canada, Vietnam and Thailand have already arrived this morning into Sydney and Melbourne. Qantas is expecting to deliver 14,000 international passengers into Australia this week and will be restarting a number of suspended international routes in March and April.