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“An absolute travel killer”: Intrepid’s commercial chief says Australia’s international resumption hinges on home quarantine

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Australia’s appetite for international travel will be “drastically” reduced if hotel quarantine stays in place, according to Intrepid Group’s Brett Mitchell.

The federal government is expected to begin the gradual reopening of international borders once 80 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Based on current projections, Australia is expected to reach this goal in December.

In line with this, Qantas has scheduled the resumption of 12 international routes from 18 December.

“As soon as Qantas announced its plan to reopen in mid-December, we had a huge spike in website traffic,” Mitchell told Travel Weekly. 

“There is a lot of pent-up demand. People just want to get out there.”

However, Intrepid’s chief commercial officer said Australia’s hotel quarantine program could put a real spanner in the works.

“Hotel quarantine is an absolute travel killer,” he said.

“We need a consistent, simple and reasonable approach everyone can understand and accept. It takes away the uncertainty.”

Intrepid now advocates for a home quarantine program like those being used in other countries.

“Many countries have a system in place where they can home quarantine until they get a negative result back. That’s a reasonable approach,” Mitchell explained.

“We’re confident common sense will prevail.”

Qantas has also expressed concerns that Australia’s 14-day hotel quarantine would significantly impact any bounceback.

“If it’s 14 days’ hotel quarantine, we will not get the demand we need to operate. Hotel quarantine is a demand killer,” the airline’s chief customer officer, Stephanie Tully, said during a Tourism Australia webinar earlier this month.

“Our view is hotel quarantine should be eliminated or greatly reduced.”

Consumer confidence is also expected to impact demand once it’s safe to travel again, especially considering the media coverage of travellers who struggled with refunds after their trip was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Mitchell said many clients are suffering “booking fatigue” from being trapped in an uncertain cycle of cancelled and rescheduled trips.

“We need to work with businesses as much as possible to make sure clients get flexible booking terms. Clients are getting booking fatigue,” he said.

“Talk to clients about their safety concerns, let them know we’ve got people on the ground and let them know there is someone they can contact 24/7.”

Despite the focus on international borders, Mitchell predicts the next year will see a massive demand for domestic holidays.

“2022 will see an absolute boom in domestic travel in Australia,” he said.

“The reality is there will only be corridor countries opening up in the first half of 2022. With a lot of luck, we’ll see the second half of 2022 start to open more.

“There’s no shortage in demand – it’s now just making sure client’s book early and with flexible booking conditions.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison first announced home quarantine trials for fully vaccinated Australians was on the cards on 2 July, as part of phase one of the National Cabinet’s new COVID-19 roadmap.

Last week, South Australia expanded its home quarantine trial to Australians returning from overseas.

So far, the state has used its Home Quarantine SA app to successfully see more than 30 domestic travellers through its home quarantine program, and is expected to begin managing up to 250 per week from next month.

The international traveller trial will involve about 90 fully vaccinated Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who are returning from lower-risk countries.

NSW has announced it will also launch a home quarantine pilot for fully-vaccinated international travellers in Greater Sydney next month.

The pilot, to be operated and monitored by NSW Health and NSW Police, will trial a seven-day home quarantine program for around 175 people.

Participants in the pilot will have had both doses of a TGA-accredited COVID-19 vaccine.

The participants will be selected by NSW Health, based on a risk assessment framework, and may include some NSW residents, some non-Australian residents, and some Qantas aircrew.


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