Sorry, travel lovers, but it looks like you’re going to have to put your wanderlust on hold until at least next year. Simon Birmingham, Australia’s federal tourism minister, has dashed hopes of travel from or to the country before 2021, saying its international borders will remain sealed until the end of the year, and perhaps longer depending on the future status of the global health crisis.
International tourism represents three per cent of Australia’s national GDP, contributing around $47.5 billion a year to the economy, so the decision to largely shut down the tourism sector reflects how big a risk allowing international arrivals back into the country is still considered to be.
Senator Birmingham said that tourist-related travel both in and out of the country “remains quite some distance off”, adding that the national priority would need to remain “health first”, despite the economic fallout. When exactly international borders will reopen is also unclear at present, with the minister only going so far as to say it was “likely” that international tourism could resume in 2021.
However, there is one glimmer of hope for Australians chomping at the bit for an overseas trip. Negotiations on how a trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia could be managed are currently underway. An expert panel from Australia has already submitted a provisional plan outlining how such a travel bubble could work. New Zealand has essentially eradicated the virus thanks to its strict and swift lockdown measures. However, the news this week that two New Zealanders returning from the UK had not only tested positive for the virus but had also potentially reintroduced it to the general public, could make NZ authorities reluctant to open its borders until Australia has suppressed the virus completely.