The problem? We could have been thrown in jail if we did.
Strangely, it was illegal for Australians to promote getting vaccinated, but it was completely legal to place a full-page Herald Sun advertisement trying to convince people to not take a vaccine.
To the TGA’s credit, a couple of weeks ago it suddenly changed the rules to allow businesses to offer vaccination incentives. As soon as we heard the law had been changed, we moved fast to create Australia (and probably the world’s) largest vaccine incentive.
We wanted to make sure the promotion was easy to understand and more importantly, quick to access. To achieve that, we decided to give every Australian who starts their vaccine program before September 30 a $200 voucher to use towards an exclusive Luxury Escapes international offer.
While the promotion will notionally cost Luxury Escapes a lot of money — we expect to give away as many as 1 million travel vouchers — we think of it as investment in Australia.
There’s no doubt we want borders open to allow travel again, but as much as we’d love to see Australians travelling to Bali, Fiji and Thailand, there are far more important journeys to be made than to the Nusa Dua.
More than half of Australians are first or second generation. That means for almost two years, millions of grandparents haven’t been able to see their grandkids. Sons and daughters have missed their parents’ funerals. Weddings have been cancelled. Our refugee intake, usually 20,000 annually, has tragically completely stopped. Basic freedoms we have come to expect have been removed, with seemingly no end in sight.
First and foremost, we want to see non-quarantine travel for fully vaccinated Australians, without needing to beg the government permission to leave and re-enter the country or pay tens of thousands of dollars for business class airfares.
And the only way to get our freedoms back is to get Australia vaccinated. Data from the UK, US and Israel has shown that when a country hits 50% fully vaccinated levels (with either the mRNA vaccines or the very similarly effective Astra Zeneca vaccine) the fatality rate decouples from infections. In Israel, which is around 57% vaccinated now, not a single person has died in 10 days from COVID-19. Almost all restrictions have been eased in the country and travel is increasingly possible for fully vaccinated people.
In the UK, the case fatality rate (the percentage of people who are officially recognised as catching COVID who ultimately die) has plummeted. In January, around 2% of COVID patients in the UK tragically died — now, the figure is only 0.11%. Around 10,000 people are contracting COVID daily in the UK, while the average death rate is 10 per day — a fraction of the regular flu, which kills upwards of 17,000 people in the UK every year.
So back to Australia.
When we surveyed more than 1,000 people, 87% told us travelling was the main reason they want to be vaccinated. Contrary to popular belief, Australians aren’t scared of getting vaccinated and travelling, they just don’t want to spend 14 days locked in a hotel room converted to a prison.
As a nation, we need to create a virtuous cycle. Instead of the constant doom and gloom we need to change the narrative.
The best way to achieve that is for the federal government to publicly and clearly set a vaccination target of, say, 70% of adults. When we hit that level (which could be as early as October based on expected deliveries of Pfizer and Moderna in the coming months), fully vaccinated people should be able to come and go quarantine free. This will create a genuine reason to get vaccinated.
At Luxury Escapes, we hope our monetary incentive can help start this conversation. A conversation about positivity and opening up the country (safely), by allowing families to reunite, students to return and our refugee intake to recommence.
There’s always a reason to put off hard decisions. And re-opening a country is definitely in that category. But creating a stretch target for Australia to achieve is the only way to get it done and re-join the world.
Adam Schwab is the co-founder and CEO of LuxuryEscapes.com.