‘Islands within an island’, tourism leaders call for united strategy to reopen borders

Tourism leaders are calling for a clear national strategy to reopen interstate borders.

With Victoria in lockdown, WA in a court battle to keep its borders closed indefinitely, Tasmania backtracking on a partial reopening and Queensland closing its borders with NSW and the ACT again, the tourism sector, from events through to accommodation and aviation, is facing a long period of uncertainty.

Former Tourism Australia boss John O’Sullivan, now CEO of listed adventure company Experience Co, says while the health crisis takes priority, a national strategy is urgently needed that doesn’t result in shutting down state economies. More than a third of Experience Co’s staff are on JobKeeper or off work in Victoria.

“From a tourism perspective, when you don’t have an inbound international market, the domestic market is critical,” he told the Australian Financial Review.

“At the moment, we take a couple of steps forward and then about three or four steps back.”

O’Sullivan cited NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as an example of keeping her state open for business while managing Covid-19 hotspots.

With warnings one in four tourism operators in Victoria could go under during the latest lockdown, Australian Tourism Industry Council chief Simon Westaway says “Victoria is swallowing a very bitter pill”.

“I can see us in this situation until the end of 2020,” he told he told the Australian Financial Review. “To give us any sort of hope, we desperately need governments to work out a strategy to keep people moving. We cannot keep going as ‘islands within an island’.”

Westaway said Australia needed to learn to live with the virus and called for a “clear strategy for border removals”.

“Victoria is a really critical state in the visitor and tourism economy for the whole of Australia and we need to find a better solution than this,” he said.