More than 400 Australian tourism executives have backed an open letter to state governments calling for borders to stay open

Queensland border closures (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
  • More than 400 executives from companies in Australia’s tourism industry have backed a letter calling on state governments to ‘Save Aussie Tourism’.
  • The letter asks for interstate borders to stay open to save the tourism industry.
  • Executives from Qantas, Virgin Australia and Accor Hotels Pacific are among those that have backed the letter.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

More than 400 executives from Australia’s tourism industry have backed an open letter calling on state governments to Save Australian Tourism.

The letter asks for interstate borders to stay open, particularly as the tourism industry has been hampwered by the bushfires last summer and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We need interstate borders to remain open. We need certainty that domestic travel is accessible so that Australians can recommence making travel plans and so we can get employees and businesses back to work,” the letter said.

“We implore you now to desist from making announcements that erode this confidence; we implore you to stop spending public money on border closures. We implore you to work quickly and collaboratively with neighbouring states to install screening protocols for travellers and to implement logical solutions which will allow interstate travel to recommence in a safe and sustainable manner.”

The letter was endorsed by executives from more than 400 businesses in the tourism sector including Baillie Lodges, Qantas Airways, Virgin Australia, Accor Hotels Pacific, Marriott International, Helloworld Travel and the Hilton.

While the letter acknowledged the need for Victoria’s border closure and supported international border closures, it raised concerns about prospects in the domestic market. This is especially after campaigns by the likes of Tourism Australia which encouraged Aussies to holiday at home or take road trips.

“This should have been our moment, as Australian tourism operators, to welcome a whole new domestic market to experience our destinations and products, with direct benefit to the local economies and communities they support,” the letter said.

However, with some states deciding to shut off their borders in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it has left many across the tourism industry reeling.

“With many businesses having remained closed for six months, spring was the time we were planning to see operations, employees and guests return, not to normal, but with modified operations, capacities and operations to allow safe travel,” the letter said.

“The events of recent weeks, in particular the ongoing changes to policies around borders and access to interstate travellers, have resulted in crippling uncertainty among tourism operators and would-be travellers alike.”

While guests were previously willing to postpone their trips, these have since been cancelled because long term border closures, which could see “long-term damage to Australian tourism as a result.”

And with the JobSeeker program set to end in March 2021, the letter argued that many exisiting tourism businesses will not be around by then.

“When international borders reopen, it is likely that the tourism industry will be so diminished that we will not be able to accommodate the number of international visitors that Australia needs to bolster our economy.”

States stand firm on border closures

On Tuesday, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed Queensland’s border will remain closed to neighbouring New South Wales throughout September.

At a press conference on Tuesday, when referring to the border issue, she said, “There will be no changes for the month of September.”

NSW closed its border to Victoria, while South Australia said people from Victoria “are not permitted to travel” into its state. Western Australia remains shut except to exempt travellers.

Tasmania opted to stretch out its border closures until December 1, according to the ABC. In August, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner revealed the territory’s border will stay shut for 18 months.

The tourism industry revealed how the border closures have impacted the industry.

In August, during a Parliamentary Senate committee, Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) executive director Simon Westaway explained how much the industry has been affected by the pandemic.

“We were once a $152 billion tourism and visitor economy,” he said. “Now in annualised terms we believe, based on the advice we’ve received from Austrade, we could be down as low as $80 billion.

“In essence, the visitor economy has halved over the course of this year. It’s obviously very concerning.”

The biggest threat for the tourism industry were state border closures, with Westaway highlighting ACTI’s research which quantified the cost of the closures at $84 million.

The federal government is looking at developing a national approach to easing state border closures, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be taking a proposal to a national cabinet meeting this Friday, aiming to reach a collective agreement with state and territory governments on an “exit plan” for lifting these restrictions.

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