Events sector forgotten in budget as international borders remain in limbo

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has indicated international borders will remain closed for another year at least.

The Federal Government has released its Budget with an assumption that international borders will remain closed until at least mid-2022 and with no extra support for the beleaguered tourism or events industry.

However, the date for a gradual opening of the international border has been undermined by a vaccine rollout that has no timetable and no clear guidelines on whether having a vaccinated population would actually have any sway on a decision to restart international travel.

“The continued economic recovery will rely on the effective containment of COVID-19 outbreaks both here and abroad and will be a key factor in the timing of the reopening of international borders, which could weigh on the outlook for the tourism and education sectors,” the budget stated.

To date only 2.7 million vaccinations have been administered. The vaccination rollout has been sent into disarray by several blood clotting incidents linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is now only being recommended for those over 50.

While the government has scrambled to secure enough Pfizer vaccinations for the rest of the population, there is concern the current vaccines on the market are not effective against the new variant of Covid currently sweeping through India, which in effect undermines any plans to open borders based on mass vaccinations.

Margy Osmond, Tourism and Transport Forum’s CEO, told The Sydney Morning Herald, the situation has become “border roulette”.

“Everyone in the government’s got a different attitude about when the border will reopen,” she said.

“We can’t recover without international borders being open, they need to address certainty and then skills and the level of support for things like attractions, otherwise they’ll go under and there will be nothing left for tourists to come and see and no staff to serve them when the border eventually does reopen.”

Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley said tourism has continued to be “one of the solid performers of the Australian economy”, despite the challenges of the past 18 months from bushfires to floods and the pandemic.

“Rather than bounding out of the starting blocks once international borders reopen, our tourism industry will limp along, struggling to bring our lucrative inbound visitors back to our shores,” he said.

“With clarity of ongoing support, we can ensure all industry survives through this crisis and comes out the other side ready for the new world of travel. Our challenge right now is knowing if these businesses will continue to be supported until borders re-open.”