Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham reckons Australia won’t be letting tourists into (or out of) the country until next year.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Birmingham said Australia’s border closures helped massively in curbing the coronavirus pandemic and that a 2021 border reopening would be “more likely the case.”
“I do sadly think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off,” he said.
“Just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”
On Thursday morning, Qantas announced it has suspended all international flights (except those to New Zealand) until October.
“With Australia’s borders set to remain closed for some time, we have cancelled most international flights until late October,” a spokesperson for the airline said.
“Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand returns, we can add more flights back into our schedule.”
While there has been talk of a trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand and other Pacific nations, this process has been stalled by Australia’s own state border drama.
That means tourism and other non-essential travel just keeps getting pushed further and further back in the schedule.
“I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working […] with those countries to find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies,” Birmingham added.
Aussie citizens returning home are of course still allowed to enter the country, while a few others will also be allowed to visit Australia in the near future, provided they undergo a two-week quarantine. International students are at the top of that list.
However when it comes to holidays, Birmingham said it was “an almost patriotic duty” to travel domestically instead.