NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has revealed the state’s non-essential travel ban will be removed on 1 June, but warned travellers should expect to holiday differently.
In a stroke of good fortune for regional NSW tourism businesses hit by the dual crises of the bushfires and COVID-19, intrastate travel across the state will be allowed from June.
Speaking to the press alongside deputy premier John Barilaro, Berejiklian described it as “great news” for NSW and encouraged travellers from interstate to book a holiday in her state ahead of the date.
“We intend to keep our borders open. We think that’s best for New South Wales but also best for Australia,” she said.
Museums, art galleries, libraries and other NSW cultural institutions will be allowed to open from 1 June.
However, the premier warned her citizens that “the holiday you’ll be taking from 1 June, in the COVIDSafe environment, will be different from a holiday you’ve taken before”.
NSW is Australia’s worst-affected COVID-19 state, accounting for almost half of Australia’s 7,068 total confirmed cases.
However, the number of new cases in the state has dropped significantly in the past month, with as few as four cases confirmed by Premier Berejiklian overnight, originating overseas.
“Please take extra care in planning ahead, booking online, and making sure you keep away from large crowds, and protect your friends and your family as you are holidaying,” she said.
“We want people to enjoy themselves, to feel free, but nothing we do is the same during a pandemic.
“You need to book ahead, think about opportunities to enjoy the environment in a different way, but please make sure you’re safe.”
Deputy Premier Barilaro told the press the removal of travel restrictions would allow small regional communities to see “a tourism bump” ahead of the Queen’s birthday long weekend in June.
“I said back in March you weren’t welcome, and we’ll see you around Christmas – well, Christmas has come early, and that first shout was on me,” Barilaro said.
Barilaro said he was working with towns in the Snowy Mountains and expected there would still be a ski season in NSW this year.
The deputy premier also reportedly denied that some regions, like the bushfire-ravaged NSW South Coast, weren’t prepared for an influx of tourists.
According to ABC News, he claimed much of the clean-up had been completed and said many small businesses were reopening.
“There is capacity, not everywhere and not always, so … ring ahead,” Barilaro said.
The news comes after Berejiklian two days ago said it was too risky to give tourism the green light, as reported by ABC News.
The premier said she now felt more “comfortable” as the number of new cases remained low.
“If you take away the overseas cases and direct contact cases, community transmission is less than what we anticipated,” she said.
Heath authorities in NSW confirmed four new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday, all of who had recently returned from overseas, and are staying in quarantine hotels.
It also comes after Berejiklian said she opposed her counterpart premiers’ border closures, adding at the time that she hoped if NSW continued to demonstrate strong infection control, they would be comfortable easing border restrictions.
Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) NSW welcomed the news regional areas across the state would be reopened for travel, but called on the government to look at lifting restrictions on dining.
“Regional travel being allowed again is fantastic news for accommodation providers,” TAA NSW chief executive Michael Johnson said.
“However, more needs to be done to ensure once we get people back out to our regions they are able to do more of the things they see as a natural part of a holiday.
“The government needs to be looking at safely lifting more restrictions on dining – particularly those in areas which have never had a case of COVID-19.
“It doesn’t make sense that a large venue with multiple rooms on multiple floors is restricted to 10 people for the entire premises – the same as a small café,” he said.
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