It may have felt like an eternity in your own home, but Australians are being warned they may need to wait until next year before booking a holiday overseas.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham urged holiday-makers to avoid booking any international travel amid the coronavirus crisis, warning bans could still be in place around Christmas.
“I wouldn’t put any guarantees that you could undertake that overseas trip in December,” he told ABC’s News Breakfast.
“It is impossible to tell at present to say precisely when travel restrictions will be removed because that will be a matter dependent upon the health advice at the time.
“The international travel restrictions have played a key role (in stopping COVID-19’s spread) and will continue to play a key role.
“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.”
In a separate interview this afternoon, Senator Birmingham said international travel could be “the very last thing that is reactivated again” after coronavirus restrictions were lifted, and specifically warned against booking cruises, even for next year.
“I would say to Australians that now is not a time to be making bookings for travel unless you have an iron-clad insurance policy, because we cannot guarantee when you will be able to undertake that travel, that clearly areas that have been proven to be higher risk are likely to be some of the last areas where that travel is permitted again,” he said.
“So, international travel will be sitting towards the end, cruise travel, you would expect to be sitting right towards the end if not the very last thing that is reactivated again, given the difficulties Australia has faced with the cruise sector so far.”
The Federal Government said Australians, however, should start “dreaming” about their next holiday at home with states more likely to relax restrictions within our borders.
“Now is a good time to undertake a bit of dreaming, a bit of planning, so those who can afford to, can help an Australian tourism business when we get to the other side of this,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Think about the Aussie break that you might take when we finally get to the other side of this.”
Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley told the Sydney Morning Herald that it would be “quite a while” before Australia’s foreign travel businesses recovered.
“We’d be optimistic about something happening in the fourth quarter of this year but, really, it’s probably toward the end of the year or the start of next year,” he said.
Local tourism has taken a major hit over the past six months, with the summer bushfires combined with COVID-19 wiping billions from the industry.
Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) CEO Margy Osmond told the Sydney Morning Herald in March that the knock-on effects could see tourism lose around $3 billion each month across Australia.
“Tourism has already been wearing the bushfire impacts and when the gates open again we are still going to have to contend with the image issues of bushfires having burnt everything to the ground,” Ms Osmond said.
”We’re now saying off the back of the banning of large events and cruise ship restrictions, we are probably looking at $3 billion in losses per month.”
Travel restrictions and social distancing rules alone have wiped out inbound and domestic tourism at an estimated cost of $9 billion per month, Seven reports.
Australians are banned from flying abroad in all but essential circumstances. while any returning traveller is required to spend 14 days in mandatory isolation inside a hotel monitored by police and the Australian Defence Force.
In Australia, the Queensland border with NSW is currently closed to people not travelling for work, medical appointments or carrying freight, with ministers advising Australians that they should remain in their own states.
Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, and Northern Territory have also closed their borders for non-essential travel.