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Business travellers welcomed back this week; what does this mean for SMEs?

After 704 days, Australia finally welcomes all fully vaccinated international tourists, business travellers and other visa holders from this week.  While there will be a considerable lag before arrivals return to their pre-pandemic levels, the long road to recovery for crippled tourism businesses starts now.

“Fortress Australia at last comes to an end.  This is the moment tourism business, devastated by international border closures, have been waiting 23 long months for,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“Australia’s tourism industry is ready to roar back to life.

“The international reopening is a lifeline for our 300,000 tourism businesses and the 700,000-strong workforce that they employ.   Prior to the pandemic, the economic benefit realised by inbound tourism was extensive, contributing up to $45 billion in export income every year.

“Australia has had one of the longest and harshest border closures anywhere in the world, while disparate COVID-19 restrictions have differed across the country.  Australia has a huge task ahead of it to repair its international reputation.

“Serious challenges remain for tourism operators with international travel not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024,” Australian Chamber – Tourism executive chair John Hart said.

“Businesses that are primarily reliant on international tourist arrivals have been crippled by the international border closures for almost two years.  As such, targeted financial support for those businesses hit hardest will help them stay afloat until their operations can resume.

“To ensure that Australia can restore its standing as an internationally competitive destination, a number of initiatives such as refunding tourist visa fees and scrapping passenger movement charges must be considered.  This will make Australia a more cost competitive destination and drive much-needed international demand.”

“Additionally, increasing Tourism Australia’s funding up to $240 million a year will be essential to rebuilding our international image as a premier destination.

“As of February 21, our borders will have been closed to international tourists for 704 days.  Today’s announcement from the Federal Government finally sets our tourism industry on the path to recovery,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“A step back to normality, this decision will allow our flailing tourism sector to recover, saving businesses and saving livelihoods. Given we are an export-oriented economy, our future prosperity is contingent on our international borders being open.

“The announcement today is a crucial step towards opening up to the world and getting Australia back to business.

“With every month of delay costing the economy $3.75 billion, the reopening of our borders is long overdue,” John Hart, executive chair of Australian Chamber-Tourism said.

“Businesses that are primarily reliant on international tourist arrivals have been savaged by border closures over the past two years, with most operations recording more than a 60 per cent fall in turnover, while many have mothballed their operations entirely

“The economic benefits of international tourism to Australia are considerable.  Prior to the pandemic, tourism was Australia’s fourth largest export industry, contributing $45 billion in  export income each year.

“Of course, there will be a lag between the reopening of the international borders and when international visitors come to Australia.  To ensure we are an internationally competitive destination, initiatives such as refunding tourist visa fees and removing passenger movement charges will be needed to encourage tourist arrivals.

“The delay in tourism arrivals also necessitates ongoing support to rebuild tourism businesses that were devastated by the border closure. If Australia is to benefit from the contribution our tourism sector makes to local jobs and communities, we need to ensure these businesses can stay afloat in the coming months.

“Allowing business travellers back to Australia is also important. Much of our economic growth and economy relies on foreign investment so getting these travellers back into Australia will allow them to make the investment decisions that will boost jobs, growth and living standards of Australians.

“Since May last year, ACCI and our tourism arm, Australian Chamber – Tourism, have advocated for a staged international reopening plan.  Taking the step to reopen our borders is a safe and sensible decision with our vaccination rates over 90 per cent.

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