Australians are expected to be unable to leave the country for leisure travel until at least late 2021, according to federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday after handing down the federal Budget, Frydenberg said it relied on assumptions that Australia’s international borders would remain closed into next year.
“International travel, including by tourists and international students, is assumed to remain largely closed off until late next year and then gradually return over time, and a vaccine to be available around the end of 2021 is one of the assumptions in the budget,” Frydenberg said, as reported by The Guardian.
According to other reports, the Budget papers confirm that both inbound and outbound tourism are expected to remain low until the latter part of 2021 and recover gradually.
The Budget also assumes Western Australia will not reopen its border until April 2021. It is assumed that other states and territories would reopen by the end of this year.
“Closed borders cost jobs so the quicker those borders are open in a COVID-safe way, the better, not just for those local communities and those particular states but across the country,” Frydenberg said.
The news comes as Etihad Airways announced it would stop all flights to Brisbane, claiming the route is commercially unviable, despite the recent increase in the cap on arrivals from 4,000 to 5,500 passengers per week.
Explaining what prompted the flight changes, an Etihad spokesman told Guardian Australia: “The decision to cancel the [Abu Dhabi to Brisbane] route is a commercial one, and a direct consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on global travel and tourism demand.
“We will work closely with impacted guests and travel agents to notify them of the changes to their itineraries and re-accommodate them on alternative flights,” he told the outlet.
The spokesman noted Etihad would continue to fly to Sydney and Melbourne. However, the latter city has not been accepting any international passengers since the escalation of its second wave of COVID-19.
Guardian Australia noted Etihad’s decision is likely to create a backlog among its own customers who have been stranded overseas. However, this will free up space for other airlines who have been required to share Brisbane’s 1,000 weekly hotel quarantine places for new international arrivals.
The news also follows Malaysia Airlines’ decision in September to halt flights to Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide after the introduction of the arrival caps.
Almost 30,000 Australians overseas have registered with the government as trying to get home, 9News reported, but it is thought the true number could be much higher.
Charity Amnesty International wants the caps raised and hotel quarantine expanded, and has even started a campaign on the issue.
The Australian Government has an obligation to bring the thousands of Aussies stranded overseas home. Take action in comments 👇
Deputy Labor Leader Kristina Keneally has also been campaigning on the issue, and wants the flight caps raised and rules to stop airlines inflating prices.
On Tuesday, Kenneally’s motion urging the Morrison government to bring stranded Australians home narrowly passed the Senate, according to 9News.
But she tweeted the Morrison government had voted against it.
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) October 6, 2020
Featured mage source: iStock/MicroStockHub