Northern Territory Government Responds to Tourism Industry Backlash

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
December 14, 2021 Updated: December 14, 2021

Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison has said that tour operators’ concerns over the altered Dec. 20 COVID-19 travel restrictions are being “looked at.”

At a press conference on Monday, she told reporters that the Government had received responses from both residents and industry groups, and were considering some of the issues that had been raised.

“We’ve had it from residents through to major industry groups, so we are having a look at making sure that it does work for the circumstances of the Northern Territory, but most importantly whilst also making sure that we have strong measures in place to keep the community safe, particularly the highly vulnerable communities, and communities where we do not have a high enough vaccination rate,” she said.

This comes after last week’s announcement that under the “strengthened roadmap” set to take effect on Dec. 20, vaccinated arrivals to the NT will no longer have to undertake a quarantine period but will be required to remain in a high-vaccination zone for the first 14 days of their visit.

This measure is expected to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to remote and vulnerable communities, but according to Tourism Central Australia CEO Danial Rochford, the policy is “tantamount to throwing the industry under a bus.”

“No one will be coming to the Territory,” Rochford told The Epoch Times.

According to Rochford, the new restriction means that visitors to the Territory will have to stay for two weeks in an area with high vaccination rates, Darwin, for example, rather than going directly to a place such as Uluru, Kings Canyon, or Kakadu.

Rochford said that based on the original travel changes set to come in on Dec. 20, there was optimism amongst tour operators. That change would have seen home quarantine lifted for fully vaccinated travellers, meaning they could have entered the Territory and begun their holiday immediately.

“But now the rug has been pulled out from under us,” Rochford said.

He acknowledged that the Government’s intention to protect vulnerable communities is good, but that a balanced approach is needed whereby people are kept safe while the economy is moved forward.

“The new directive is clearly not a balanced approach, ” he said.

Manison’s new announcement on Monday after tour industry backlash hinted at trying to achieve a more balanced approach.

“We do talk to industry very often, we do talk to people in remote settings very often, but we’re also looking at a range of research too,” she said.

She added that since making the new announcements last week, multiple concerns have been raised about the need to ensure that the Territory is kept safe whilst also operating the way that it needs to. In addition, people need certainty in order to plan their holidays at Christmas.

“So we are taking some of that on board, and having a look at it, and looking at making sure that we can keep Territorians safe while having a system that is practical to implement,” she said.

“We’ve had conversations with Yulara and certainly the tourism precincts there, so those conversations are ongoing, we’ve had many with different industries in the last few days, but these conversations are ongoing.”

Rochford confirmed these comments, telling the Epoch Times on Tuesday that Tourism Central Australia had a meeting with Tourism Minister Natasha Fyles, at which the industry’s concerns were raised.

Rochford was happy for the opportunity to present their concerns to the minister at the meeting and said he “hopes that government takes on board the views of the industry.”

“We continue to advocate as a strong voice for our tourism industry,” he said.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Natasha Fyles said she believed there would be further updates to the restrictions before December 20.

“So what I’m saying is, that I’m very confident that in the coming days we will make some changes that will help not only bring families together, allow Territorians to travel, but they will also reflect on some of the concerns that the tourism industry has raised with us,” she said.

Steve Milne