Tourism industry welcomes COVID exit plan but calls for more detail

Phased plan COVID-19

Managing Director of Spencer Travel Penny Spencer (middle). Source: Supplied.

The travel and tourism industries say the federal government’s four-phased plan to re-open the country is lacking the detail and vaccination targets that businesses need to regain confidence.

The first half of the government’s national plan to transition the country’s COVID-19 response focuses on vaccinating the population and reducing the frequency of lockdowns, before reopening domestic and international travel in the final two phases.

Announcing the roadmap on Friday, the Prime Minister said until modelling from Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute is released, it will be unclear what percentage of the population would need to get vaccinated for the country to move from one phase to the next.

Penny Spencer, managing director of Spencer Travel, welcomes the roadmap, saying the travel industry desperately needed some clarity as to what the future will look like.

“We’ve been hoping for a long time to get a plan. We’ve been wanting a plan of opening up rather than shutting down, which is really all that we’ve had in the past,” she says.

Spencer says while it’s reassuring that the government is working on a pathway to reopen international travel, businesses can’t be fully confident until there are clear vaccination targets and a timeline.

“We need to know actual statistics, and percentages of vaccinations. It’s really vital for the country to know if it’s 80% [of people] that we need vaccinated to open the international borders,” she says.

In the current phase, the government plans to adopt a vaccination certificate system using the Australian Immunisation Register. It also plans to set up digital vaccination authentication at international borders.

Phase two aims to minimise serious illness and hospitalisation as a result of COVID-19 and to enforce lockdowns only in extreme circumstances.

The third phase commits to no lockdowns, and exempting vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions. Caps on returning vaccinated travellers will be removed and there’ll be no restrictions on outbound travel for people who are vaccinated.

In the final phase, there’ll be no limit on inbound arrivals for vaccinated people and travellers won’t need to quarantine. Non-vaccinated travellers will also be permitted to enter the country with some conditions.

Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of Queensland’s peak tourism industry body, the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, also wants to see more detail added to the roadmap.

“We’re certainly happy that there is a strategy that gets us to a normal situation,” Gschwind tells SmartCompany.

“However, what we do need is a lot more detail about how we get from one phase to the next. And what proactive steps the government will take to get vaccination right and get the quarantine system right,” he says.

According to the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, which represents 3000 regional tourism businesses, the pandemic has resulted in a loss of revenue of $20 billion in the state, and $80 billion nationally.

Gschwind hopes the country will enter stages two and three of the roadmap in early 2022. However, he says he’s doubtful.

“We certainly hope to reach them [phases two and three] sooner than the end of 2022,” he says. 

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