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Australia: international borders likely closed until 2021

Australia: international borders likely closed until 2021

Simon Birmingham is the Australian Tourism Minister, and he is not confident about Australian borders being open to overseas tourists anytime soon.

View of Australia Minister for Tourism

He is quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying:

“It’s sadly very unlikely that our health crisis is likely to facilitate an opening to international travel this year.”

Simon Birmingham, Tourism Minister, Australian Financial Review

Given Australia’s success (so far) at containing the pandemic on its shores, he can’t see the borders opening, and the consequent risk of increased cases of COVID-19 that would come with that, before there are sustained improvements in treatments, or preferably a vaccine.

Although he doesn’t address this, it also probably means that the ban on outbound international travel (with some exceptions) will remain until then. That is also supported by my sources.

View of International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Predictions of future rates or travel, once restrictions are lifted, are also plummeting. Even a survey by the industry group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is reporting even more caution amongst travellers in the space of a couple of months. In April, they reported that 61% of travellers intended to travel within a few months of the ‘end’ or the COVID-19 pandemic. By June, this has dropped to 40%. Not good for the travel industry.

Alexandre de Juniac, the Director-General of IATA addressed this in his remarks to a media briefing yesterday (Tuesday 16 June 2020).

The re-start is anything but a normal situation for airline planning or passenger demand. Forward bookings into the autumn period are down 82% on normal levels. And fewer travellers are planning for an early return to the skies. Our most recent survey indicated that only 40% would fly within a few months of the pandemic subsiding. That is down from 61% in early April.

Remarks of Alexandre de Juniac, Media Briefing on COVID-19, 16 June 2020
a beach with people on it
Not the Caribbean, actually Byron Bay.

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

Given that the majority of new cases of COVID-19 being reported in Australia come from overseas travellers held in quarantine, keeping our borders closed is a logical position.

While I think surveys are worthwhile, they are often ambiguous in what they are showing. The opening of borders, signifying the pandemic is under control, will be a great incentive for travellers to confirm their intent. The survey is really more an indication of pessimism/optimism or anxiety about the pandemic at a point in time, rather than travel intent, I would argue. Subtle but important difference.

Still, I reckon, I can probably still kiss my October trip to the Caribbean goodbye.

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