There’s more Covid than ever, but Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has decided to scrap Covid tests for international travellers to boost tourism.
Two years of Covid lockdowns combined with a major reduction in international travel decimated Australia’s tourism, retail, and hospitality sectors.
The margins which most businesses rely on to survive – particularly in remote locations – were wiped out. Those that managed to survive are now being weaned off federal government support in the next Budget.
The Prime Minister’s plan is to attract travellers by making it easier to get into Australia. It is a bid to restore Australia’s ‘friendly’ and ‘welcoming’ image after videos of state-based quarantine camps went viral around the world painting Australia as prison colony.
Tourists will still have to prove that they have had a negative Covid test three days before departing for Australia. Australia is behind the UK, who scrapped Covid testing for departures in January 2022.
Although the Prime Minister declined to say exactly when Covid testing will be stopped, he did confirm that it will be ‘soon’. The promise comes with a $60 million tourist package.
“As the world reopens, and travellers get out and see the world again, we want to ensure that at the top of every must-see-list is Australia,” announced the Prime Minister.
$15 million of this will go to the Great Barrier Reef, which has already received a sizeable environmental grant at the end of last year.
Australia has a lot of work to do repairing its international image, with Australia frequently trending on global news for shooting protesters with rubber bullets, arresting pregnant women for social media posts, and throwing the elderly to the ground over mask-wearing mandates. Lockdown-happy state premiers gave their states unflattering records, such as the ‘most locked down city’ for Melbourne, while Western Australia essentially turned itself into an isolated prison cell under Labor Premier Mark McGowan.
These are negative stereotypes that the Prime Minister knows he will have to break down in the minds of prospective tourists, who may still be worried that they might end up trapped in Australia under unpredictable snap-lockdowns.
“I have been listening to tourism industry operators about what they will need to rebuild their international tourist businesses and this funding boost will deliver on these needs,” assured the Prime Minister. “The return of our international tourism market will support hundreds of thousands of tourism jobs, strengthen our economy, and back our world-class tourism operators and the many regions reliant on international visitors, like tropical North Queensland.”
Tourism Australia has also set up a $40 million marketing campaign to soften Australia’s post-Covid image.