International travel won't be an option until 2021 at the earliest, according to a survey of Australian economists – with one big exception

When can Australians travel overseas again? Not this year, economists say.
  • Australian border restrictions won’t be lifted until the start of 2021 at the very earliest, nearly 90% of Australian economists forecasted in a survey conducted by Finder.
  • Of the 31 consulted, two even expected it wouldn’t be until 2022 that free travel returns.
  • That’s with the exception of travel between Australia and New Zealand, which the two governments have discussed as a likely exemption once they are satisfied with COVID-19 containment efforts.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australians hoping to revive international holidays plans ought to find something else to cling onto in quarantine.

With the possible exception of New Zealand, there’s not a chance in hell of getting out of the country, according to the majority of economists.

In a survey of 31 economists conducted by Finder, just four suspected Australian borders could open before the end of the year.

The other 27, or 87%, forecast travel restrictions were at an absolute minimum seven months away from being relaxed. Of those, estimates differed widely on when Australians might be able to venture out to far flung lands.

The number of economists predicting when Australian borders will open.

Around four in ten say it’ll be before March, while more than half say it’ll be by June. Eight in ten say September 2021 by the latest. If that sounds a long way away, two cynics even claim the calendar will read 2022 before we can travel freely again.

Given international tourists throw more than $45 billion into the Australian economy each year according to official figures, it’s money the country will miss as much as it misses travelling itself. One possible silver lining could be that when vistiors are able to holiday again, Australia rises to top of their list.

“Australia has definitely put health ahead of the economy –- unlike most of the rest of the world [and] there are a number of positives that could come out of this,” Elder home loans head John Rolfe said in a statement issued to Business Insider Australia.

“The biggest being that… Australia could be seen by future international travellers as ‘the safest’ destination from a health perspective.”

As for us, while the federal government hasn’t indicated how long current travel restrictions might apply, the Prime Minister has signalled it will be some time before we can go abroad again.

“I can’t see international travel occurring anytime soon. I can’t see that. The risks there are obvious,” Scott Morrison told media last week. “The only exception to that, as I have flagged, is potentially with New Zealand, and we have had some good discussions about that. But outside of that, that is unlikely.”

With a government set to begin relaxing some restrictions on Friday, a New Zealand-Australia travel bubble may not be all that far off. Even closer at hand will likely be the ability to travel domestically, with that more than likely to be the first travel relaxation when health departments are content with progress on national containment.

It may be welcome news for those parts of regional Australia hit hard by the ferocity of the bushfire season. While COVID-19 may have thrust that emergency from the minds of those in the cities, those still trying to rebuild have not forgotten. Particularly when 44 cents of every dollar spent on tourism in Australia is used in regional destinations.

Domestic tourism campaigns launched by Tourism Australia in their aftermath, and put on pause by stay-at-home orders, will be ready to kick off again when the government deems it feasible.

So too will home-weary Australians be desperate to get out of their own bubble for the first time in months.

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