Australia will reopen its borders to international students and skilled migrants on Dec. 15 after putting the plans on hold for two weeks due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The government had originally planned to open the international borders to this cohort on Dec. 1 but paused those plans while authorities analysed Omicron.
“Obviously, National Cabinet will meet on Friday, but everything we’re seeing from this new variant points to the fact that we should be able to progress on the 15th,” Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan told Sky News Australia.
“Which is wonderful news for Australia’s tourism industry, wonderful news for universities, wonderful news for all those businesses looking for that workforce that’s really going to help springboard us out of the pandemic.”
Tehan told an aviation conference on Dec. 8 that Chinese tourism—Australia’s largest market before the pandemic—was unlikely to revive for some time, while travellers from other countries would make up the shortfall.
“My hope is Europe, North America, and the Pacific will follow Japan and South Korea and if we can continue to open up safely, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to bring those countries on board sooner rather than later,” he said, The Australian reported.
Tehan praised Queensland for reopening its borders on Dec. 17, and for South Australia’s decision to keep its border open despite the emergence of Omicron. He also expressed hope that West Australia will open its border soon, despite the state’s premier saying they would remain shut until 90 percent of the population is vaccinated.
“If we can get Australia whole again it will help boost further international tourism coming back to this country,” he said. “One of the things that is little known is that international tourists don’t come to visit one state. They want to travel to at least two, three or four states.”
The minister also announced that the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) will be held from 15 to 18 May next year in Sydney. It’s expected to attract around 1,700 delegates and contribute millions to the local economy.
ATE, Australia’s largest trade event, is an annual business-to-business tourism travel trade event delivered by Tourism Australia. It provides tourism operators around the country a chance to meet and do business with travel wholesalers and agents from around Australia and the world.
Tehan said that as Australia continues its recovery from COVID-19, and demand for tourism picks up, ATE will be the ideal opportunity for business.
“As we stick to the National Plan, Australians can be confident about the future as our recovery from COVID continues strongly into 2022. It is going to be a year of great opportunity for Australians, especially our tourism operators,” he said in a statement.
“The long-term benefits from ATE are substantial. The relationships and future business it establishes can help grow Australia’s inbound tourism industry, which was worth $45 billion annually pre COVID-19, and will create jobs across the country.”