Australia Reopens Borders Following $72B Tourism Loss Due to Pandemic

Australia is preparing to reopen its borders to international travelers following a pandemic lockdown that saw the nation's tourism industry lose approximately $72 billion.

The Australian government first announced it would be closing itself off from international flyers in March 2020, following the continued spread of COVID-19 cases within the country. This represents one of the longest ongoing shutdowns since the start of the pandemic.

However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office said in a press release Monday that "Australia will reopen to all fully vaccinated visa holders, welcoming the return of tourists, business travelers, and other visitors" starting February 21.

Travelers who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to possess an exemption in order to enter the Land Down Under.

Australian Tourism
The Australian government announced it will be reopening its border to tourists that are fully vaccinated toward the end of February. The prime minister hopes the nation will be able to recoup some of the significant losses in tourism dollars that it saw the past two years during COVID. Here, a plane from Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia, can be seen over Sydney in an editorial photo from the airline. Qantas Airways Limited

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) cited a decrease in the amount of new cases of COVID-19 as the main reason for reopening the country.

"With improving health conditions, including a recent 23 percent decline in hospitalisations due to COVID, the National Security Committee of Cabinet today agreed Australia is ready to further progress the staged reopening of our international border," the press release continued.

Australia's stringent response to the pandemic has been cited as a reason for the nation's low case and death total compared to many other developed countries. The New York Times has reported only 2.7 million total cases and under 5,000 deaths in Australia since the pandemic began.

Additionally, a reported 80 percent of eligible Australian adults are fully vaccinated, a statistic that has also contributed to the low deaths among the Aussie people.

The PMO expressed hope that the reopening of the country could help revitalize tourism, an industry that has been decimated over the past two years.

Tourism Research Australia, a branch of the country's trade agency, notes that the industry as a whole has lost approximately AU$101.7 billion ($72 billion USD) since the start of the pandemic. This includes a two-year fall in international spending from AU$44.6 billion ($31.8 billion) to just AU$1.3 billion ($926 million).

However, the PMO remained optimistic that reopening the country to international travelers would help the government recoup some of these losses.

"Today's announcement will give certainty to our vital tourism industry, and allow them to start planning, hiring and preparing for our reopening," the prime minister announced in the press release.

Despite this optimistic appraisal, other parties cautioned that it would take a significant amount of time to get the country's tourism industry back to where it was.

Margy Osmond, CEO of the Sydney-based Tourism and Transport Forum, said that while she was "thrilled" at the reopening news, it would take a coordinated effort to get the industry moving, according to Reuters.

"It's not as simple as just turning on the tap and we see numbers of international tourists back where they were pre-COVID," Osmond said.

However, even with this cautious approach, many industry mainstays in the country expressed excitement in the market. This includes Australia's flag carrier, Qantas, whose stock rose 5 percent following news of the country's reopening.

Newsweek has reached out to the Australian government's tourism board, Tourism Australia, for comment.