On Monday, Australia announced that it will reopen its borders to vaccinated tourists this month, ending two years of misery for the tourism industry, resuming migration, and injecting billions of dollars into one of the world’s greatest economies.
The ruling effectively puts an end to Australia’s approach to the Covid-19 crisis, which it maintains has kept mortality and infection rates low. Stop-start lockdowns, the second main strategy, was permanently abandoned in December.
In recent months, the country has taken steps to loosen border controls, including allowing skilled migrants in and creating quarantine-free travel agreements — or “travel bubbles” — with a few nations, including New Zealand.
The reopening, which begins on February 21, will be the first time since March 2020 that anyone from anywhere in the world can visit Australia as long as they are vaccinated.
“We look forward to welcoming you back to Australia if you’re double-vaccinated,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a press conference in Canberra.
The tourist industry, which has relied on the domestic market and has been severely harmed by mobility restrictions, has praised Morrison’s decision, which comes three months before an election.
Over the phone, Peter Shelley, managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, stated, “The industry has been on its knees for the past two years since the borders were closed.”
“Now we can focus our collective efforts on repairing a deteriorating industry,” he continued.
The Tourism and Transport Forum’s CEO, Margy Osmond, said the industry was “ecstatic” about the reopening, but that collaboration was required to keep Australia competitive.
“It’s not as easy as turning on the tap,” she told reporters, “and we’re seeing numbers of international tourists return to pre-Covid levels.”
Since the outbreak began, international and domestic tourism losses have totaled more than A$101.7 billion ($72 billion), according to Tourist Research Australia. Australia’s overseas travel spending dropped from A$44.6 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year to A$1.3 billion in 2020-21, according to TRA.
The prospect of a return to profit growth was greeted enthusiastically by investors, propelling tourism-related enterprises to new heights. Qantas Airways, the country’s largest airline, saw its stock gain 5%, while Flight Centre Travel Group, a travel operator, saw its stock rise 8%.