Australia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated tourists Monday, nearly two years after the continent nation imposed some of the world’s most draconian Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Australia closed its borders to everyone except its own citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 in an attempt to stop the surging Covid-19 cases.
Under the travel ban, citizens were also barred from travelling overseas without an exemption and a strict cap was imposed on international travel.
There were jubilant scenes at both major international airports in Sydney and Melbourne on Monday.
Family and friends finally embraced at arrivals after years apart.
As speaking to Bloomberg Television from Sydney Airport, Australia’s Tourism and Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he was confident that the tourism market would “rebound very strongly, very quickly” now that the borders are open.
Tehan added that the cruise industry could also open “in the coming weeks” if the federal government can win support from one or more state governments.
End to Fort Australia Policy
The end of the fortress policy, an issue highlighted by the deportation of undesired tennis star Novak Djokovic earlier this year, demonstrates the nation’s transition to accepting the virus.
Following a 94% vaccination rate for people aged 16 and over and a booster shot campaign, the new approach involves managing the current Omicron outbreak without resorting to lockdowns.
There are now just a few governments adhering to Covid zero policies, including Hong Kong, which is fighting a rear-guard action against spiralling infections with plans to mass test the entire city.
New Zealand, has also closed its borders as it deals with a wave of Omicron. There are no easy ways to entice tourists to board such a long-haul flight, regardless of how appealing the destination is.
Last week, Tourism Australia launched a new A$40 million (US$28.8 million) campaign titled “Don’t Go Small”. “Go Australia” will run in Germany, France, Italy, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Susan Coghill, Tourism’s chief marketing officer, says popular destinations and cities that have been most affected by the pandemic also received attention.