Australia Monday reopened its borders to double vaccinated international tourists. They have been shut out since March 2020 under some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 measures.
Nine million foreign visitors used to head to Australia each year, but now the tourism industry is hoping that two years of disruption are coming to an end.
More than 50 international flights were scheduled to land in Australia on Monday as its borders reopened.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “going from COVID cautious to COVID confident when it comes to travel.” While many tourism businesses share his enthusiasm, some believe the recovery will be slow and that it will take time for overseas visitors to return in large numbers.
Margy Osmond, the chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, an industry body, says as Australia tries to attract overseas visitors, it will face competition from other countries.
“Rebuilding confidence is critical whether it is here domestically or whether it is that global travel," she said. "We are going to have to do considerable work to make people feel comfortable about coming here again. But what complicates it [is an] even more massively competitive global marketplace now. Everybody wants that leisure tourist back.”
Australia’s largest markets for inbound tourism were China and New Zealand — two countries that still have strict COVID-19 travel controls.
Tourism Australia, the country’s official marketing agency, has said it has plans to attract visitors from Britain, Europe, the United States, Japan and Korea.
Prime Minister Morrison said international travelers who came to Australia would have one of the greatest experiences they “could ever imagine.”
Under current rules, foreign visitors must have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Australia has recorded about 2.7 million coronavirus infections and 4,900 deaths since the start of the pandemic.