The overall response to the NSW government’s big international travel announcement on Friday has, unsurprisingly, been a very positive one, but not all industry figures are dancing in the street.
The airlines were very quick to respond, with Qantas bringing forward the restart of its international flights by two weeks to 1 November 2021 after the federal and NSW governments confirmed borders will now reopen on that date.
The flying kangaroo will operate up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London, and up to four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners from 1 November. Qantas also noted that more flights will be added to meet demand, if needed.
Singapore Airlines has opened sales on its flights between Singapore and Sydney for eligible customers.
From 1 November, all of the airline’s 17 weekly flights between the two destinations will be available for passenger sales for those that meet the eligibility criteria.
Virgin Australia has extended its booking flexibility to 30 April 2022, with a spokesperson for the airline saying the NSW government’s decision to scrap quarantine requirements for fully-vaxxed travellers was “fantastic news for travellers, the aviation industry and the thousands of businesses and communities in the state who rely on open borders, and the economic injection that tourism provides”.
Keeping with the aviation theme, Holiday Inn Sydney Airport is offering all guests free shuttle bus transfers to Sydney Airport for a limited time in December.
“We wanted to make everyone’s holiday seamless,” said Ben Burns, general manager of Holiday Inn Sydney Airport.
“There are so many other changes with travel these days, but one thing we know we can offer is a memorable start to your holiday in a clean, fresh and inviting way.”
Accommodation Association chair Leanne Harwood said the NSW government’s decision will allow hotels that have stepped up to protect the community to once again return to their primary function.
“Our sector stepped up from the very beginning to protect our communities by supporting the governments’ isolation program in every state and territory so that returning Australians, medical frontline workers and Australia’s most vulnerable had somewhere safe to stay,” she said.
“Our heroes, the amazing people who work in hotels, willingly put their own health on the line to allow this to happen, and their contribution and bravery through this period deserves acknowledgement.”
However, Harwood said the reality is that the ramp to recovery for hotels and accommodation is a long one.
“The loss of skills from the hospitality industry throughout the lockdown periods has meant we don’t currently have a large enough workforce to allow us to quickly open to pre-COVID levels,” she said.
“Without international students and workers, the journey ahead will be a long one, and government support is critical.”
Australian Federation Travel Agents chief executive Dean Long said the association was looking forward to receiving more details on how the NSW government’s international travel restart will roll out practically.
“The elimination of the quarantine requirement is one of the biggest barriers to international visitors wanting to come to Australia, along with airline seat caps,” he said.
“Even with today’s announcement, the runway to recovery for Australia’s travel sector is a long one.
“Australia’s travel agents and businesses have been in hard lockdown for more than 600 days, and until airlines and cruise capacity return to normal levels, which won’t be before the second quarter of 2022, we will continue to be in lockdown.
“The 30,000 Australians who work in Australia’s travel sector and the 3,000 agencies and businesses who employ them urgently need ongoing government help so we can keep providing travelling Australians with the expert support they need.”
Meanwhile, one of the travel industry’s biggest names, Flight Centre supremo Graham “Skroo” Turner (main picture), said the NSW government’s move to scrap quarantine for international travel is “effectively useless to the economy if that doesn’t include foreign tourists”.
“Our clear message is that if Australia doesn’t open up to the world this year, we’ll lose all the high-yielding international tourists we’ve spent years targeting to countries like South Africa, parts of Europe, the Caribbean – and all the other places that are open for no-quarantine tourism,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
His comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarified NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s announcement, noting that Aussie citizens, residents and their immediate families are the only ones who would be permitted to dodge hotel quarantine – not international tourists.
However, the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) was full of optimism on Friday, thanks to the NSW Premier’s eagerness to restart the cruise sector, with Perrottet noting that he was “in discussions right now with the federal government” to bring back cruising.
CLIA’s managing director for Australasia, Joel Katz, said that after months of persistence, it’s clear there’s a positive change in the discussions the sector is having with governments around cruising.
“There’s now a clear will to make progress towards a careful resumption of cruise operations in Australia,” he said.
“The latest comments from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet are very encouraging and so we look forward to having further discussions to ensure this is translated into action.
“Given the progress Australia is making towards reopening borders and reviving travel, it makes no sense to exclude cruising when our industry has committed to the most stringent health protocols to be found anywhere in tourism.”