Phillipa Harrison Managing Director Tourism Australia
James Goodwin CEO Australian Airports Association
Professor Peter Collignon Infectious Diseases Physician and Microbiologist
Phillipa Harrison – Managing Director Tourism Australia
Ms Harrison began by acknowledging the hard times the tourism industry is currently facing. Ms Harrison said that prior to COVID, Tourism Australia’s focus was on international markets however more recently they have been looking at Australia and New Zealand from a leisure point of view.
Ms Harrison noted some light at the end of the tunnel and Tourism Australia’s plan is based on that future view. They foresee some international markets will be open before others, and while there will be no seismic shift in the focus for Tourism Australia, they are always looking at the markets that offer the best opportunity to Australia. That may see focus on some markets scaled up while scaling down on others. Ms Harrison noted that some European countries may be fertile ground.
Ms Harrison noted that while borders have been closed Tourism Australia’s marketing efforts have been about keeping Australia top of mind and keeping the dream of an Australian holiday alive.
They are also focusing on how we can rebuild, including:
taking our indigenous and sustainability tourism to another level
making sure industry support mechanisms like aviation and distribution networks are still there and still strong.
Ms Harrison gave an overview of Tourism Australia’s plan.
A) Current phase
Close international borders to keep COVID-19 out.
Inbound passenger caps temporarily reduced.
Establish digital vaccination authentication at international borders.
Trial and pilot the introduction of alternative quarantine options.
B) Vaccination transition phase >70% 2 doses
Allow capped entry of student and economic visa holders.
Restore inbound passenger caps at previous levels.
Ease restrictions on vaccinated residents.
Introduce new reduced quarantine arrangements for vaccinated residents.
C) Vaccination consolidation >80% 2 doses
New bubble markets (i.e., Singapore, Pacific region).
Exempt vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions.
Gradual reopening of international travel with ‘safe countries’.
‘Proportionate quarantine’ for fully vaccinated inbound travellers.
D) Final – post vaccination phase
Open international borders.
Quarantine for high-risk inbound travel.
Allow uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons without quarantine.
Allow uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travellers subject to pre-flight and on arrival testing.
Ms Harrison discussed the importance of gaining international visitation market share as boarders begin to re-open. Australia has lost some market share due to extended lockdowns and restricted travel. Data shows global international travel forward bookings from target markets have returned to 30% of pre-covid levels as of August 2021. Outbound travel from the USA, Canada, France, Germany, UK, and Italy has recovered to 48% of pre-covid levels. Open destinations are experiencing strong and even positive economic growth.
Ms Harrison said that people are showing internationally that they want to get on planes and they want to come to destinations like Australia. She said consumer research shows demand for Australia is still there, it's about removing ‘frictions’ to get leisure travel up and running again.
Tourism Australia encourages you to share your social media content with #SeeAustralia and @Australia.
James Goodwin – CEO Australian Airports Association
Mr Goodwin outlined key points regarding the Delta outbreak travel market crash (refer attached presentation).
Passenger movement analysis
Passenger movements in Sydney and Melbourne dropped 80% on top of already reduced travel in April 2021.
Domestic outlook remains fragile with almost 60% of Australia in lockdown.
International outlook remains muted until the end of 2021.
Short term domestic travels have returned to levels not seen since early 2020.
Major and regional airports have been affected by state-wide lockdowns.
International recovery will not commence until government policy changes in November.
Longer term analysis
Passenger movements in the last 12 months have been down 72% compared to 2018 and 2019.
Current ‘3rd wave’ of outbreaks has reversed most gains of the past 12 months of recovery.
Improvement relies on reaching the >80% vaccination target for ages 16+.
Currently down about 85% of pre-covid travel levels.
Mr Goodwin discussed the New Zealand travel ‘quarantine free’ bubble and its effect of a 5% increase in passenger movements. While the load factor was low on these flights, it is still a useful model for estimating a 5% passenger movement increase per country with established ‘quarantine free’ bubbles.
Traveller insights survey
The AAA commissioned a survey of 500 people who have travelled by air over the past 5 years. It found:
4 in 5 travellers would like to see domestic border closures end once 80% of the eligible population is double vaccinated.
64% would support a slow reopening of the international border.
70% support home quarantine trials.
68% would travel overseas if they didn’t have to quarantine at both ends of the journey.
74% are discouraged from flying due to restrictions/lockdowns.
77% of people who have saved more during the pandemic will spend it on travel.
Responses by Canberra residents
Only 48% are willing to travel interstate compared to 90% when asked the same question in April.
70% are willing to travel by aircraft compared to 96% in April.
63% say wearing a facemask at the airport and on aircraft has increased their confidence to fly compared to 77% in April.
78% are happy with how the Chief Minister has handled the pandemic.
48% say the risk of sudden border closures has diminished their confidence to book a flight interstate.
41% are concerned by the perceived health risks.
41% fear cancellations/loss of money.
Key take away: travellers are losing confidence to travel and we need to provide the confidence for people to travel again. Mr Goodwin noted there is added confidence if there is a direct route (in or out of Canberra to destination).
Many airports, including Canberra, have taken advantage of new opportunities during the pandemic. People can now fly to more destinations than ever before with seven airlines and new direct routes from Canberra Airport including:
Ballina / Byron
There are more destinations than pre-pandemic levels (prior to delta outbreak). This gives Canberra travellers more choice and makes the logistics of a holiday easier. Traveller confidence will increase when direct flights are available.
Resuming international travel
The government says fully vaccinated Australians can travel overseas from November and quarantine at home for 7 days.
Unvaccinated travellers will still require 14 days hotel quarantine.
The government is working on new safe travel zones.
Countries of interest include New Zealand, Pacific Islands, UK, US, Singapore, Japan. There is significant concern that this will encourage Australians to travel overseas rather than domestically.
Professor Peter Collignon – Infectious Diseases Physician and Microbiologist
Professor Collingnon believes that Australia will be in a very good position in the November/December period. He noted:
Australia will likely end up with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world
vaccination is very good at protecting people from disease
peak respiratory virus transmission season will soon pass (mid-October onwards).
Professor Collignon discussed the following key points:
A lot of attitudes to risk need to change. There is an issue of attitudes, especially for jurisdictions with a ‘zero Covid’ mentality - Professor Collignon noted there are now changing attitudes in some jurisdictions.
Predicting next year will be difficult and Professor Collignon will be guided what happens this winter in America, Canada and Europe.
A vaccination for children will likely not be available until half-way through next year, although he noted that children are less likely to contract Covid and they get less impact from the disease.
Once 80% double dose vaccination is achieved, Professor Collignon believes we should not have closed borders and that reasonable restrictions should only be implemented if clusters occur.
4000 to 5000 deaths occur every winter due to respiratory illness pre-covid and Professor Collignon noted we will have to change our attitudes if we are to learn to live with Covid. Having low levels of Covid has put Australia in a good position relative to the rest of the world but Professor Collignon thinks that is going to have to change.
It may not be necessary to quarantine travellers from low-risk areas if Australia has high delta variant cases.
Professor Collignon stated he has never agreed with some of the ‘overly pessimistic modelling’, noting that invariably it has been wrong. He believes we should be looking at real world data from places like England over their winter to guide our view of the next period.
If two regions have a similar risk of transmission based on current case numbers (such as areas of NSW and the ACT), Professor Collignon does not see why there should be a differential list of restrictions between the jurisdictions. He noted that Melbourne currently has a much higher risk than the ACT and he would limit travel to Melbourne.
Masks add some protection and wearing glasses gives people substantial protection against the virus along with face shields for medical professionals. Professor Collignon believes that could translate to future scenarios like people working in bars wearing face shields. Professor Collignon noted that no data is available on this and that it was only his opinion at this stage.
Professor Collignon believes lockdowns will be an unreasonable response once 80% vaccination rate is achieved (unless we’re overwhelmed). He sees there may still be restrictions in place like density limits.
Professor Collignon discussed the importance of abandoning a zero covid mentality and progressing to an attitude of living with the virus. Early lockdowns with the delta variant won’t eliminate the virus and the only protection option is vaccination and reasonable restrictions.