Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hinted that overseas tourists could be allowed to come back to Australia before Easter.
Morrison is gambling on the current Omicron wave subsiding enough to allow overseas visitors back.
“I don’t think it’s too far away, to be honest, but we’ve got to get some medical advice further on that, a bit more work to do with the states to make sure we’re comfortable about it,” he told Cairns radio station 4CA.
“And then I’d like to see us get there soon, certainly before Easter, well before Easter.”
The eastern states are seeing high case numbers but many experts believe the Omicron wave has peaked in those jurisdictions.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments across the globe to remove all travel barriers including quarantine for vaccinated travellers.
“Today Omicron is present in all parts of the world,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.
“That’s why travel, with very few exceptions, does not increase the risk to general populations. The billions spent testing travellers would be far more effective if allocated to vaccine distribution or strengthening health care systems.”
Flight Centre Corporate has also backed the call for the removal of travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated.
“It’s time to get back to business, it’s time to fill our shelves once again, and it’s time to make a big step towards living with this virus,” said Flight Centre managing director Australia James Kavanagh.
“We’ve seen the glorious images out of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane as family and friends have reunited in recent times from all over the world and for the next critical phase, we need to focus on is getting business travellers back in the air and doing deals that will benefit Australia.
“Businesses big and small are the backbone to this country’s economic recovery and to remove all the obstacles that still stand in the way of corporate travel would be a great way to accelerate trade and drive a stronger GDP that would be a benefit for us all.”
However, Brisbane Airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff has warned it will take up to five years to make up the ground lost over the last two years, with Australia already behind may countries who have already begun to open up to international visitors.
“Airlines have reduced their fleets and crew, so they have to rebuild that… [and] here in Australia we’re competing with the whole world,” de Graaff told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Most other countries are already open, so the airlines have already allocated some capacity and aircraft to those other markets. We’re one-nil behind.”
Brisbane Airport is preparing to construct a third terminal before the city hosts the 2032 Olympics.
“We’ve got a runway of 10 years to sell and position Brisbane as a top destination and top place to visit,” said de Graaff. “This will put us on the map.”