Industry elation as AUS to unlock international travel

By Luke Barras-hill |

Quarantine-free travel has been slowly returning since November, allowing friends, families and loved ones to reconnect for the first time since March 2020. Source: Sydney Airport.

[UPDATED] Travel retail and duty free stakeholders have welcomed Australia’s decision to reopen its international borders this month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today (7 February) that travel restrictions would be lifted for fully vaccinated visa holders, including tourists, from 21 February.

Those visa holders who are not double jabbed will still require a valid travel exemption to enter Australia and will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.

“We are delighted that Australia’s international border is finally reopening to all travellers after two long years,” George Tsoukalas, Managing Director, Heinemann Australia told TRBusiness.

“We will be looking to scale up our operations in Sydney International Airport and Gold Coast Airport in line with passenger volumes and our team is very much looking forward to welcoming back more shoppers to our stores.

“We have an exciting programme of promotions and new brand introductions lined up for the next year and we are thrilled that more shoppers will be able to enjoy them.”

George Tsoukalas, Managing Director, Heinemann Australia.

AUS OPENING UP AFTER NEARLY TWO YEARS

Andrew Gardiner, Chief of Commercial – Property & Retail at Melbourne Airport, said: “We are excited by the government’s announcement of the imminent return of international flights to Australia. The past two years have been challenging, with the airport operating at as little as 1% of 2019 passenger numbers, with Melbourne enduring one of the longest lockdowns in the world.

‘At the outset of the pandemic our board backed the decision not to charge retailers rents whilst closed, and it is against this background that we are able to welcome back almost all of our retailer partners, both domestic and international.

“Our duty Free operator Dufry has been recruiting so that we will have enough staff when we reopen the store, as many have left the travel retail industry to work elsewhere. I am confident that we will see our sales grow ahead of our customer growth as customers reacquaint themselves with the great products and wonderful prices offered by Dufry.

“We are working closely with our retailers on their reopening plans to ensure all plans align with the projected customer numbers, to provide the high level of service that we were accustomed to pre-Covid.”

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) said it was ‘ecstatic’ following the announcement, stating it provides “much-needed certainty to airports, airlines, tourism operators, and everyone involved in the international visitation industry”.

Families and friends who have been apart during the pandemic could now reunite ‘on their own terms’ with loved ones, added BAC.

“After a challenging 24 months, BAC is more than ready to move forward with its partners to rebuild tourism across the state and reconnect Queensland to the world.”

In a decision agreed with the National Security Committee of Cabinet, the PM said the changes are aimed at protecting the health of Australians while continuing the country’s economic recovery and comes as Australia reports a 23% fall in hospitalisations due to Covid.

“Today’s announcement will give certainty to our vital tourism industry, and allow them to start planning, hiring and preparing for our reopening,” said Morrison.

“In 2018-19, tourism generated more than AUD$60 billion/US$43 billion for the Australian economy, with more than 660,000 jobs dependent on the industry.”

Australia has implemented some of the toughest border control measures worldwide since locking down in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

As reported, restrictions began easing from November but exclusions such as those covering international tourist trips remained in place amid high transmission rates of Omicron.

In the same month, the department of health removed the remaining curbs on retail outlets at the country’s international airports.

Since the staged reopening in November, Australia has welcomed nearly 580,000 arrivals.

The PM had signalled over the weekend that the country was considering the reopening of its borders to international visitors and that decision ‘may not be far away’.

Australian media reports quoting unnamed sources had suggested the reopening could take place within a matter of weeks.

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