[UPDATED] AUS drops remaining airport retail curbs

By Luke Barras-hill |

Gebr. Heinemann concession at Sydney Airport.

Australia’s department of health has removed ‘remaining restrictions’ on retail outlets at the country’s international airports in a move that will be greeted by the industry.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt MP said in a statement that the country’s high vaccination levels was behind the repeal, which unlocks retail outlets for business.

Limitations had been imposed on certain stores under the Biosecurity Act to reduce the risk of Covid-19 being spread by passengers at international airports, although it is not immediately clear what those remaining restrictions were and TRBusiness is seeking further clarification.

‘GREATLY REDUCED’ RISK

Reacting to the development, Heinemann Australia Head of Category Management & Marketing George Tsoukalas said: “We welcome the lifting of the closure mandate on Australian airport retail outlets as a much needed sign of the Australian government’s commitment to reopening to international travel and as an indication of the progress we have made in vaccinations.

“While passenger traffic remains low relative to 2019, our teams are excited to be back in our shops as we continue to prepare for the further reopening of our international borders.”

The health department has confirmed that 81.9% of Australians over the age of 16 have now been double-jabbed, correct as of 12 November.

All jurisdictions in Australia have at least 68% of their populations over the age of 16 fully vaccinated and these figures are expected to continue to increase rapidly over the coming weeks.

“Thanks to the continued increase in Australia’s vaccination rates, including recently passing 90% of eligible Australians aged 16 and over being single dose vaccinated, the risk that passengers, crew and airport staff now present to the Australian community is greatly reduced,” read the statement.

“With this lower risk, and the anticipated resumption of international travel, these retail businesses are once again able to operate, while adhering to Covid safe measures in place in their local jurisdictions.”

In an interview with ABC News Australia’s Insiders Programme, Hunt hinted that Western Australia could reopen its borders to coincide with The Ashes cricket tournament, which begins in early December.

P&C UPDATES AT SYD

As reported, Australia this month moved to ease border controls for international travel, handing freedoms to fully vaccinated Australian permanent residents and citizens.

An Eye Love outlet operated by Lagardère Travel Retail at Cairns Airport’s domestic terminal.

Speaking to TRBusiness following the announcement in October, Przemek Lesniak, CEO of Lagardère Travel Retail Pacific, said: “We commend the Australian Government’s steps to prioritise the health system and wellbeing of its citizens above everything else and are largely supportive of the measures taken despite the challenges for our business.

“However, there has been a lot of confusion and uncertainty caused by each individual state having the final say over their internal borders and federal decisions not being implemented consistently across the country. As a result, overall confidence in travel for many is low and we believe this could take a long time to return even after restrictions are lifted.

“The last 18 months have challenged our business at every level. Our number one priority has been supporting our teams in store who have been the most impacted as borders and restrictions have moved and changed constantly.

“Our second priority has been working with airports, other landlords and our partners to mitigate the crisis, manage stock and keep the business running. While this has been an incredibly difficult period, pausing our operations has allowed us to look at new opportunities and set ourselves up for sustainable growth moving forward.”

Heinemann Australia, which last year extended its Sydney Airport concession contract until 2029, was able to open several stores on a trial basis from late 2020 and its Gold Coast Airport operation in line with the quarantine-free New Zealand travel bubble.

However, the travel bubble suspension in reaction to the spread of the Delta variant, lockdowns in New South Wales and Queensland and curbs on retail and passenger caps meant doors were closed again.

“Our teams are ready to reopen our stores and welcome back travellers as soon as we are able,” said Richard Goodman, Managing Director Heinemann Australia, at the time.

“As we have been throughout the pandemic, we’ll continue to be vigilant and flexible with our operations, as the border reopening will be a gradual process. We’ve also been working behind the scenes to update our Perfumes & Cosmetics area in Sydney and look forward to offering new products to passengers once completed.”

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