Tourism Australia at ITB Berlin NOW: no borders to open yet
Australia has been doubly hit by the pandemic. In early 2020 the country suffered the worst bushfires in its history, leaving the visitor records of 2019 almost a memory. As the nation began to recover, Covid-19 spread across the world. Over the last year, the tourism industry in the southern Pacific has more or less come to a standstill.
“We are keeping the dream of a trip to Australia alive“, said Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia, who joined the ITB Berlin NOW press conference live from Sydney. At present, no one knows when Australia will be opening its borders to international tourists again. “We expect the entire population to be vaccinated by October, after which we can consider taking first steps to open again“, Harrison said. Tight restrictions had helped Australia come through the pandemic relatively unscathed, with 30,000 coronavirus cases and 1,000 deaths. This was not a situation one was prepared to risk by prematurely opening up. The focus last year was on domestic tourism, as it was at many other destinations. As a result, some parts of Australia’s tourism industry had fared quite well, while naturally regions particularly dependent on international visitors were struggling.
All the same, Phillipa Harrison called for people to accept tighter restrictions for Covid-19 and to learn to live with the virus so that one could slowly return to a new normal. The first step towards opening borders could be to allow entry to visitors from countries with high vaccination levels, Harrison said. Moreover, Australian tourism authorities are ready and waiting to offer visitors as soon as possible everything that the country stands for: spectacular nature, fascinating wildlife and friendly people. “We have everything to soothe travellers’ souls, and everything they have missed.“ The coronavirus had triggered even greater interest in responsible and sustainable tourism, Harrison said. “We have the products to meet changing travel behaviour after the pandemic.“
One of Australian tourism’s key products is indigenous tours, enabling visitors to find out about aboriginal culture. Nicole Mitchell, project manager for Tourism Australia, said that aborigines had been taking care of the land for over 50,000 years. It therefore made sense to listen to people who had lived the country’s history and whose stories were those that made Australia so special. “All around the country there are opportunities to gain a close insight into aboriginal culture. These encounters make nature come alive.“ For only those who understood could really see. Tourism had the ability to help understand ways of life that were not our own. “By sharing culture we keep it alive“, Mitchell said.