“Welcoming the world back to Australia”: International border to reopen on 21 February

“Welcoming the world back to Australia”: International border to reopen on 21 February

Australia will reopen to all fully vaccinated visa holders on the 21 February 2021, meaning tourists, business travellers and other visa holders will finally be able to enter the country.

Announced today by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the change will be a welcome boost to the struggling tourism industry which in 2018/19 generated more than $60 billion for the Australian economy.

Under the revised border rules, all eligible visa holders will be able to enter Australia as long as they have received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-recognised vaccine.

Those that have not will be subject to relevant state or territory quarantine requirements which differ nationally. In addition, unvaccinated travellers must provide proof of a medical reason that they cannot be vaccinated.

“I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that,” PM Morrison said.

“Over the next two weeks they will have the opportunity…to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia.

“Our borders will be open from the 21st of February, and welcoming the world back to Australia.”

The change comes after the tourism industry's peak bodies and business leaders called upon the Federal Government to ease international border restrictions - described by some as nonsensical.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said the new border rules will aid in the recovery of Australia's tourism industry which has been particularly hard hit by a lack of international visitors.

"We all understand that the tourism industry in Australia has been dealt a tremendous load through COVID," Andrews said.

"But as of the 21st of February we will be welcoming back to Australia international visitors and that is going to be such a welcome relief for many tourist providers all around Australia."

 The announcement has already been welcomed by major industry players including Flight Centre Corporate managing director Australia James Kavanagh, who called it an "absolute game changer".

"This is a truly momentous day for businesses big and small – it is they who will lead this country’s economic fightback – and there is no doubt this is an absolute game changer when it comes to Australia being open to the world once again,” Kavanagh said. 

“It has been a long time coming but the critical part is once we open to the world, we stay open, and that will naturally inject real confidence into people wanting to travel. Confidence is already rising in the leisure space across the world – now it is time for that happen in the corporate space. 

“There is no doubt visas, exemptions, and quarantine have all been a big hindrance to the corporate world – and although we expect some meetings and events to still exist in a virtual of hybrid manner – now is the time to get on planes to see colleagues, clients, and potential new customers." 

The Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) said it was "ecstatic" at the international border reopening, noting the announcement gives "much-needed certainty to airports, airlines, tourism operators, and everyone involved in the international visitation industry".

"More importantly, today is an extraordinary day for families and friends who have been apart throughout the pandemic, as they can now reunite on their own terms with their loved ones," BAC said.

"After a challenging 24 months, BAC is more than ready to move forward with its partners to rebuild tourism across the state and reconnect Queensland to the world."

Peak body Australian Tourism Export Council said the news means businesses can breathe a sigh of relief and begin rebuilding their markets.

"Australian tourism businesses will rejoice in the news that our borders will reopen to all international travellers on 21 February,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. 

“It’s been a long hard and desperate road for every tourism business across the country and we have lost many along the way, but this news will give those who have survived a clear target to work towards and a start point for the rebuilding of the industry. 

“With close to two years with our borders closed our industry has lost tens of billions of dollars in export revenue and we welcome the border reopening as an opportunity to regain some of Australia’s tourism market share."

He also said that the industry's next challenge will be to meet demand successfully,  "and that will involve tourism businesses rebuilding their lost capacity, product, service skills and supply chains".

“Given the tourism industry has taken a devastating hit to its skills base, experience, expertise and global sales networks, we urge the Government to outline a significant funding commitment to our industry in next month’s budget as a sign of its support for what has been a hugely valuable economic contributor for more than a decade," Shelley said.

Updated at 2.29pm AEDT on 7 February 2022.

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