In what was more unwelcome news for the outbound travel industry, Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham conducted numerous media interviews over the Easter weekend forecasting that international borders will remain closed possibly into 2021.
With no certainty about containing or curing the virus, Senator Birmingham appeared on numerous media outlets over the weekend including ABC News Breakfast and Sunrise to relay his message that international borders will remain closed for quite some time, possibly until well into 2021.
Asked whether the current international bans would remain for 2020 or beyond, Senator Birmingham said: “It’s very difficult to predict and nobody should be getting ahead of themselves at the present.”
“This is a time where, unfortunately, people can’t undertake holidays and they won’t be able to go overseas for quite some time to come,” he told ABC’s News Breakfast.
The Tourism Minister also stated that anyone who does have an overseas trip booked for December this year may want to reconsider those plans, going as far as saying:
“December is a long time away, and it’s very hard to make predictions about what will happen then, but we could be in this circumstance for quite some period of time.”
It certainly wasn’t the announcement travel agents or reservation teams wanted to hear across the country.
Having spent weeks already working tirelessly to re-schedule clients overseas trips, repatriate people and deal with numerous customers demanding immediate refunds, the emotional strain has taken its toll.
Not to mention the thousands of travel and tourism staff across every sector being stood down or worse let go altogether.
It may have been the elephant in the room question we probably all guessed we knew the answer to anyway, but no-one in outbound travel wanted to hear it stated so publicly.
Despite the international travel ban having no end in sight, travel restrictions between states are predicted to ease in the coming months and Birmingham suggested people should instead start ‘dreaming’ about a domestic getaway, saying:
“There may be a slightly earlier point in time where it becomes feasible to think about domestic travel again. We’re not there yet but certainly, this time is a good time for a bit of dreaming, planning, thinking about the Aussie break that you might take when we finally get to the other side of this.”
Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham
Current estimates suggest the coronavirus crisis has already wiped out inbound and domestic tourism worth AU$9 billion a month.
This already off the back of huge losses from the devastating bushfire season, of which the Australian Tourism Export Council confirmed 70 per cent of its 850 members – all businesses in the industry – received cancellations ranging from $5,000 to $500,000.
Speaking to the ABC, ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley gave a ‘conservative’ estimate of $4.5 billion in lost profits for the tourism industry in 2020 – before even factoring in COVID-19.
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