TTA Chairman highlights need for Australia to look at other countries’ approach to post-COVID tourism
Tourism Training Australia Chairman, John Hart, recently attended the Tourism Recovery Summit in Riyadh as a virtual attendee and was confronted with other countries in attendance talking about what they are currently doing to open travel corridors and have people moving safely. So many other countries are looking at how to restart travel in a safe way as opposed to how to stop travel to stay safe.
The interoperability of systems for recording vaccinations, testing regimes and access to travel zones were viewed as vital components of the recovery mechanism for global tourism.
Hart notes “It struck me more than once that Australia risks being on the wrong side of history of the recovery if we don’t consolidate our successes with a reopening that works for us and the rest of the world.
“Most mature tourism countries are looking for the competitive advantage of being first movers back to safe travel. They are, however, looking at safe travel in a very different way to Australia. They think of safe travel as people travelling that are free of COVID-19 not just those coming from Countries that have low or zero cases of community transmission. People who arrive in Australia that are COVID-free represent no risk to our safety. The trick of course is how to ensure they are actually COVID-free.
Hart added “The recently released ACCI International Reopening Framework envisages a vaccination and testing regime that promotes COVID-free travel. This is based on conditions where vaccinated travellers have an antigen test prior to travel, on arrival and a week later. This reduces the risk of a COVID infected traveller being released into the Australian community almost to zero.
“There is an alignment between the countries that are promoting safe COVID-free travel and those that are heavily reliant on tourism. Australia is lucky that we have such diversity in our economy and are therefore not so reliant just on tourism, however, tourism is the export cream that supercharges our economy. At least it was prior to 2020.
Hart highlights that the other feature of those countries driving the return of tourism is their reduced domestic travel capacity and he notes “there is a misplaced view in Australia that our domestic tourism upturn will be driven by Australians, that used to travel overseas, exploring their own backyard. The truth is we are yet to return to 100% of pre-COVID domestic tourism levels let alone having increases that make up for international visitation.”
The themes of Riyadh’s Tourism Recovery Summit were Resilience, Sustainability and Collaboration. Hart considers these to all be laudable qualities for future tourism commenting “resilience and sustainability were considered to be linked around the emerging state of tourism around the world. In Australia the potential resilience of tourism businesses is at an all time low.
“Every resource that businesses have had have been used to keep businesses going whilst domestic tourism has been rebuilding. Despite the much-needed support from the Federal Government, businesses still need to call on their reserves to survive until now. The only way to build resilience and sustainability of Australian tourism businesses is to get international COVID-free travel happening as soon as it is safe to do so.
Collaboration was very much the centrepiece of what most of the tourism players were looking for. This included travellers who were calling for a far simpler and more seamless process of moving around the globe. The interoperability of systems for recording vaccinations, testing regimes and access to travel zones were viewed as vital components of the recovery mechanism for global tourism. This is also consistent with the ACCI International Reopening Framework.
Hart concludes “Australia really needs to gradually open the border to COVID-free safe travel. This includes arrivals and departures of travellers that are vaccinated and tested and shown to be safe. Tourism will not survive an ongoing shutdown until all travellers can be welcomed and the global tourism community agrees.”
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