The International Air Travel Association (Iata) has responded with cautious optimism to the announcement yesterday (1 October) by the Australian Government on the next steps to reopen the country’s international borders.
“This is a step forward. But more can still be done,” said Philip Goh, the association’s Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific, in a statement.
“The announcement of the November timeline and the removal of the international arrival caps are positive steps forward. The reduction-of-quarantine period and introduction of home quarantine for vaccinated Australians are also steps in the right direction,” Goh said.
He added: “We welcome the use of rapid antigen tests for international travel.”
But the statement noted that, realistically, the woes of the travel and tourism sectors will persist as long as passenger caps are retained for unvaccinated arrivals and quarantine remains even for the vaccinated.
Travel recovery muted while quarantine remains
International travel recovery will be muted and restrained when quarantine remains, Iata emphasised.
“Ultimately, the need to quarantine should be removed for those who are vaccinated and who test negative prior to departure for Australia.
“We urge the Australian government to follow guidance from [the World Health Organisation] on a risk-based approach. This includes relaxing measures and/or quarantine requirements for travellers who are fully vaccinated.”
The association has also urged Australian authorities to provide alternatives for unvaccinated individuals through testing.
“A number of major [countries] – the US, Canada, European states – have lifted quarantine requirements for international arrivals. Australia needs to work towards a similar approach,” Iata said.
Aviation sector will need more detail of Govt plans
“Airlines will also need more details if this is to be operationalised in November. Hence, it is essential that the Australian government steps up its engagement with the aviation sector to help airlines prepare for the safe and efficient re-opening of Australia’s borders.”
Meanwhile, the outspoken Australian Retailers Association has welcomed the resumption of international travel from next month and said the Federal Government’s framework for reopening the border provides hope for retailers which have been severely impacted by the absence of international tourists.
“Our international border has been closed since March last year, which is a long time to go without tourists and many businesses have been decimated as a result,” association CEO, Paul Zahra, said.
“CBD retailers, regional businesses in popular tourist hot spots, as well as travel retailers are all heavily reliant on spending from international visitors and they’ve suffered immensely over the past 19 months.
“Before the pandemic, international travellers spent over $40-billion a year when visiting Australia and that boost to the economy has been sorely missed,” Zahra said.