Open for business: Australian hoteliers prepare to welcome international travelers

Australian hoteliers and accommodation providers are enthusiastically preparing for the return of international tourists after nearly two years of border closures.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would reopen to vaccinated travelers from February 21. Unvaccinated visa holders will still need a valid travel exemption to enter Australia and must comply with state and territory quarantine requirements.

“Today’s announcement will provide certainty for our vital tourism industry and allow them to begin planning, hiring and preparing for our reopening,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office read.

The announcement comes days after New Zealand announced a phased reopening of its borders which will see international tourists excluded for most of 2022.

In 2018-19, tourism generated more than $60 billion for the Australian economy, with more than 660,000 jobs dependent on the industry, according to ABS data.

The reopening is widely welcomed by the Australian travel and accommodation industry, including Marriott International, which operates 27 hotels in Australia and has two openings planned in Melbourne in March.

“The return of international travel is indeed very good news for the tourism industry,” said Sean Hunt, vice president of Marriott International Area – Australia, New Zealand and Pacific.

“This new flow of travel will allow our hotels across Australia to begin operating at full capacity and welcome a wider audience of international guests.”

Skilled workers to drive the recovery

Widespread labor losses of up to 35%, coupled with a skills shortage, have been a major challenge for the sector in recent months, with many companies unable to fill vacancies. The return of skilled workers should provide a much-needed boost to hospitality.

Accor Pacific’s new CEO, Sarah Derry, said SM this is “great news” for the Australian economy.

“Opening borders will bring back skilled workers and students, which will boost the hospitality industry workforce and allow us to provide the best quality experiences for our guests,” she said. .

IHG Hotels & Resorts SVP General Manager – Japan, Australasia and Pacific, Leanne Harwood, echoed that sentiment, saying now was the perfect time to join the industry.

“It is so uplifting to know that we will soon be able to welcome international guests back to our hotels, as well as once again offer international students, backpackers and other visitors rewarding careers in hospitality,” he said. she declared.

“There has never been a better time to work in our industry and [we] have never been better prepared to welcome the world back to our shores.

As for visitor demographics, Harwood expects business travel to rebound quickly.

“While I don’t think we’ll see an immediate influx of tourists, I do think business travelers are ready and waiting in the blocks – in fact, we have several IHG people eager to visit,” she said. declared.

Trust is the key

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) CEO Michael Johnson said the reopening of borders will once again boost confidence in Australia.

“Occupancy at our main Sydney and Melbourne gateways is around 30% and we cannot begin to stage a solid recovery until international travelers return and confidence is not restored,” he said.

“It will also restore the confidence of our international students and working holidaymakers when they know our borders are open to the world.”

The move will also boost confidence within the industry, according to Chris Sedgwick, chief operating officer of TFE Hotels Group.

“Obviously the reopening of international borders is a big step forward for tourism at all levels,” he said.

“And that gives tourism operators confidence that the roadmap to recovery is on track, which is a very good thing.”

While the Hosting Association welcomed the decision, chief executive Richard Munro warned that a consistent approach was needed.

“Tourism and the many, many businesses, including our hotels, motels and accommodation providers and the people we employ, must have a commitment from government at all levels on this,” Munro said.

“Tourism cannot be political football and we cannot afford to invest in accelerating the return of international travelers just for borders to be closed, quarantine requirements to change or be reintroduced or executives vaccination are changed. Frankly speaking, political pointing has to stop.

“Consumer, business and industry confidence has been continuously shaken through all of this, and we cannot afford anything that further impacts that.”

Australia as a must-see destination

After billions of dollars in lost export revenue over the past two years, the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is eager to see Australia regain a chunk of the global tourism market.

“Australia is an incredible destination and one that topped the global travel bucket list before our borders were closed by Covid in March 2020, and we can see a strong future for our industry,” the director said. General of ATEC, Peter Shelly.

“While other destinations are already back online and welcoming visitors, Australia has been absent from the global destination list for some time and there is significant pent-up demand as we look forward to it.”

Shelley said the challenge for our industry is to meet this demand successfully and believes government funding is needed to help tourism businesses rebuild.

“As the tourism industry has suffered a devastating blow to its skills base, experience, expertise and global sales networks, we urge the government to present a significant financial commitment to our industry in this month’s budget. next as a sign of its support for what has been an extremely valuable economic contributor for over a decade,” he said.

Peter M. Doran