News

Entry restrictions eased for international travellers

Ali Coulton

The federal government has eased restrictions for fully vaccinated international arrivals into Australia.

As of Sunday, international arrivals will be able to present a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) instead of the previously mandatory nucleic acid amplification test (such as PCR tests) within 24 hours of the flight departure time.

“While PCR tests remain the gold standard test, a RAT within 24 hours is an acceptable indicator of whether a traveller has COVID-19 before flying to Australia,” Greg Hunt, the federal Minister for Health and Aged care, said.

“This is consistent with moves within Australia to accept RATs for diagnostic purposes.”

The Health Minister has also halved the number of days those who contract COVID-19 while overseas have to wait before reentering Australia from 14 to seven.

This follows reports of Melbourne woman, Martina Cullen having been forced to remain behind when her family returned from a holiday in Fiji last week and having to spend thousands as a result.

Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) CEO Dean Long said the announcement is a welcome one for the travel agent community.

“The decision to relax requirements for people coming into Australia will further encourage those Australians looking to travel internationally to do so and, with 70 per cent-plus of international bookings made by Australians happening through travel agents, that’s a very welcome development,” Long said.

“But, it’s an exhaustingly long runway to recovery for Australia’s travel retailers with international travel not returning to normal until well after mid-2022 and revenue only flowing to our members well after that when travel has actually taken place.”

AFTA’s most recent member survey shows 16 per cent of bookings are from new customers who have turned to travel professionals because of the challenges of travel in these times. Additionally, 52 per cent of bookings are re-using existing credits.

“Confidence levels at a consumer and corporate level in making even domestic bookings let alone the more complex international bookings still remains very low and events this week have done nothing to change that,” Long said.

“For our members, however, the work involved in helping travellers impacted by these ongoing domestic and global changes continues to ramp up.

“Travelling Australians need travel experts now more than ever and the percentage of all international travel out of Australia booked through travel professionals is rapidly rising from the seven in every 10 bookings pre-COVID with an additional 16 per cent of new bookings coming from people who haven’t used a travel agent before.

“We have lost about a third of the highly skilled professionals from our sector and as consumers look to use their credits and make new bookings, we need financial support to rebuild the skills and workforce.”

Travellers to Australia must still wear a mask during their flight and follow the directions of state and territory governments regarding quarantine and on-arrival testing.


Featured image: Facebook/greg.hunt.mp



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