Tourism

Birmo says international travel may be back on the cards in 2021

International travel in 2021 may not be off the cards just yet, but Australia’s Tourism Minister said getting Aussies overseas in the first half of the year will be challenging.

Speaking live on Sky News on Sunday, Simon Birmingham said that with the progress COVID-19 vaccines are making, “it’s not impossible” that international travel will be back on the cards next year.

“Then, of course, the manufacturing rollout, distribution, uptake, all the other factors that come into how it is that a vaccine could change the way we look at things around this pandemic,” he said.

“I think the first half may be challenging. But let’s just see how we go in terms of how quickly we can secure, distribute, get that take-up in relation to vaccines with the confidence and safety that everybody needs in terms of the vaccine itself being safe.

“And that’s why all of the standards at present are so important as well as crucially, of course, then the vaccine being effective in ensuring that people aren’t spreading COVID when they come back.”

On Tuesday, Qantas boss Alan Joyce said passengers would not be able to fly internationally unless they showed proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Last week, the Council of Australia Tour Operators (CATO) managing director Brett Jardine and chairman Dennis Bunnik met with Senator Birmingham at his Adelaide office to stress the importance of the continuation of JobKeeper at higher rates for the tourism sector.

Jardine and Bunnik updated the minister on CATO’s engagement across the industry locally and overseas, and its work with the travel insurance sector in preparation for the post-COVID recovery.

Brett Jardine, Dennis Bunnik and Simon Birmingham

As part of discussions with Birmingham, Jardine confirmed that CATO members directly support the retail travel sector, funnelling more than $1.25 billion via commissions, incentives, brochure printing/distribution, conference support and educational trips for travel agents.

He emphasised the importance of the continuation of JobKeeper at higher rates for those industries that remain 85 per cent to 100 per cent down due to the closure of borders.

“The majority of product developed by our sector is distributed through retail travel agencies, and CATO members will play a vital role in enabling Australians to travel again safely once the borders reopen,” Jardine told Birmingham.

“Not only are our members’ products sold by travel agents for Australians to experience holidays all over the world, CATO members are also heavily invested in domestic holidays that have a significant positive economic impact on regional Australia, and will be first to market, investing in product and re-employing staff as we emerge from COVID.”

Australia’s Tourism Minister commended CATO for its proactive approach using this crisis as a catalyst, to ensure members and the broader travel industry have a long-term sustainable future.

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