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Tourism Industry calls for state premiers to reopen borders

Tourism Industry calls for state premiers to reopen borders
August 28, 2020

The Australian tourism industry has come together to call to the nation’s state premiers and chief ministers to reopen borders as part of a grassroots campaign to #SaveAussieTourism.

The open online letter, endorsed by tourism stakeholders at all levels, ’s high profilers as well as its smaller independent operators and appeals to the states’ leaders to demonstrate a way forward to restore interstate travel and protect the domestic tourism market. The letter, with an open invitation to join in support, is available here:

Signatories to date include tourism leaders including Flight Centre Travel Group Chief Executive, Graham Turner; Spicers Retreats Owner and founder Jude Turner; Helloworld Travel Executive Director and Chief Executive, Cinzia Burnes and Andrew Burnes and Intrepid Travel Chief Executive, James Thornton.

The list of signed supporters spans the breadth of the industry, from accommodation and tour operators to travel agents, vehicle hire companies, industry bodies and regional destination offices.

As with much of the leisure industry, Australian tourism has been hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, with many operators having been forced to close since March, resulting in employee stand-downs and massive financial losses.

An industry that employs around 660,000 Australians, the losses in turn impacts a swathe of other industries and millions more workers in both metropolitan and regional areas which service tourism businesses, from food producers to local retailers. The regional spread of people and businesses impacted reaches deep into virtually every electorate across the country. Tourism is vital to the health of regional economies across Australia.

Now, just as many businesses were planning to recommence operations, having incorporated operational measures to mitigate the risk of Coronavirus infection and start on the road to recovery, unpredicted extensions to state border closures have forced many to reconsider the economic viability of operating in the Australian tourism industry.

Craig Bradbery, Chief Operating Officer of Baillie Lodges who wrote the open letter, said the industry’s opportunity to benefit by reaching a whole new market of domestic travellers created by restrictions to overseas travel during COVID-19 had been dashed by the ongoing changes to state border restrictions.

Bradbery noted “there’s been so much support and pent-up demand to date from domestic travellers, but now as we’ve been forced to ask our guests to once again postpone their trips and re-arrange flights, people are fed up and losing confidence in the whole idea of planning and booking a holiday.

“For the tourism industry, this should have been our moment - a chance for Aussie travellers to discover the many wonders of our own remarkable country. But as state borders like Queensland and the Northern Territory now look to remain closed, tourism businesses can’t survive for an extended period solely on the support from intrastate travellers.”

Intrepid Group’ James Thornton said Australians were keen to support local tourism, adding “the travel industry will only begin to recover through certainty and confidence in state border policy. The National Cabinet and state governments need to work collaboratively to offer clear and consistent guidelines on when borders will open.”

Last month the Tourism Restart Taskforce - formed through the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry - also launched a restart plan to reignite tourism across the country.

Chamber of Commerce Tourism Chair, John Hart said the group was formed to provide expert advice to the Federal Government, noting “what we need right now is a clear timetable for the Morrison government in order to restore hope to the tourism sector

“Tourism businesses need lead time to prepare - they can’t open their doors in 24 hours and start trading.”

Among the taskforce’s recommendations is a timetable beyond national cabinet’s Step 3 of easing restrictions for tourism, hospitality and events, and making clear the conditions that will enable each step to be taken.

Once set, it says there should be no going back on easing restrictions unless serious and transparent health benchmarks are compromised.

It wants all of Australia’s state and territory borders open and the establishment of a trans-Tasman bubble this month.

Other recommendations call for the JobKeeper wage subsidy or a similar support scheme for tourism and hospitality businesses, which are still impacted by government restrictions or have been completely closed down by the crisis.

Chair of the Tourism Restart Taskforce, Jeremy Johnson advised “this plan provides a runway back to operations for the industries that comprise Australia’s largest services export and the creator of one in 13 jobs in the Australian economy.”

Main image courtesy of Destination Gold Coast.

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