Traveller screening can keep states open, say 400 top execs

written by Adam Thorn | September 1, 2020
Brisbane runway first flight water cannon (BNE)
Brisbane’s new runway opened on 11 July with a water cannon salute to the first flight by a Virgin 737-8FE (BNE)

More than 400 senior tourism executives have now signed an open letter arguing Australian states can keep borders open by introducing “screening protocols”.

The ‘Save Australian Tourism’ campaign, which is already backed by top figures from Qantas, Virgin and the Hilton, said the move would soothe the “crippling uncertainty” preventing people booking holidays.

“We implore you now to desist from making announcements that erode this confidence,” the letter reads. “We implore you to stop spending public money on border closures.”

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The news comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed on Tuesday that she would keep her borders shut to NSW and the ACT during September, despite low case numbers.

The open letter has already been signed by Olivia Wirth, the chief executive of Qantas Loyalty; Graham Turner, chief executive of Flight Centre Travel Group; and David Cox, chief executive, APT Travel Group.

“The events of recent weeks, in particular the ongoing changes to policies around borders and access to interstate travellers, have resulted in crippling uncertainty among tourism operators and would-be travellers alike,” the letter states.

“We need interstate borders to remain open. We need certainty that domestic travel is accessible so that Australians can recommence making travel plans and so we can get employees and businesses back to work.

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“We implore you to work quickly and collaboratively with neighbouring states to install screening protocols for travellers and to implement logical solutions which will allow interstate travel to recommence in a safe and sustainable manner.

“The Australian tourism industry needs you to act now!”

Other public backers include Rory McVeigh, QantasLink’s manager of fleet operations; Rapthi Thanapalasingam, head of brand at Virgin Australia; and Simon te Hennepe – co-founder of TRAVLR.

Earlier on Tuesday, Premier Palaszczuk doubled down on her insistence that she has no immediate plans to open her border to NSW and the ACT.

“Queensland will continue to have our borders closed to keep Queenslanders safe,” she said. “I’m not going to be moved on this. The federal government can throw whoever they want at that, we can have Clive Palmer as well.”

Last week, the head of Qantas’ pilots association echoed chief executive Alan Joyce’s repeated calls for a national consensus on state border closures.

Mark Sedgwick, the executive director of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), also told the Australian Aviation podcast he thinks border closures can’t eradicate COVID-19 altogether.

“The more you shut borders, the more people become complacent and don’t socially distance, don’t wash hands, don’t stay home on their own, and when it gets into the community it runs away,” Sedgwick said. “We need a national approach.”

Joyce notably accused Premier Palaszczuk of closing her borders purely for political gain in August.

“Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania – we’ve got closure there still with very low cases or no cases,” Joyce said. “And it’s been like that for a while and we don’t have any determination for when the borders will open.”

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9 Comments

  • James

    says:

    Agreed.

  • Stephen Boyce

    says:

    it is time for the borders to open Corona cases in Victoria are coming down. Scott Morrison is right it is time for the borders to open

  • John Court

    says:

    State politicians are tying their own Gordian Knot but the solution can be found by discarding the basis on which these restriction decisions have been made; in other words, making a closer correlation with a serious flu epidemic than has hitherto been made.
    I do wonder what they will do once this pandemic is over and we do get a winter flu epidemic. Given flu kills many people, will they invoke another lockdown?
    This will require some serious introspection which I do not expect.

  • Andy

    says:

    But nobody is ever going to use that idea to win an election! Wuhan Dan and Pol Palaszczuk aren’t interested in what is right, only what they dictate. NSW has hospitals for NSW people, Qld has hospitals for our people, remember those words on election day when Pol Palaszczuk, who is happy to let people die and businesses crumble, wants your vote!

  • Red Cee

    says:

    Why has Queensland been signaled out yet again. Most other states also have border closures. Personally, I would rather keep them closed in the short term while NSW and Victoria have such high numbers. One person can cause multitude infections.

  • Peter

    says:

    They are not interested in the the health and welfare of our country. Agree with the smart QLD premier. I have foregone 5 trips , but understand. The execs are only in interested in their dollar account. Look what happenef in Europe when they wanted tourists regardless.of the outcome..

  • Greg

    says:

    All states that continue to have their borders closed should come under the same scrutiny at QLD. No one wants to see a repeat of what is occurring in Vic. Over time we need to learn to live with this Virus. On a population basis, NSW COVID cases represent 0.0006% of the population, QLD & WA is 0.0002% and VIC is 0.0034%. Ignoring Victoria, is the level of infections significant enough to jeopardise thousands of business and the security of families for those industries hardest hit by the border closures.

  • mike

    says:

    amazed when looked at Cairns, Palm Cove & Port Douglas for Qld school holidays in 2 1/2 weeks. Phoned one place & they said doing low season prices & still they can’t fill.

    Everything is available along with hundreds of frequent flyer tickets from BNE & OOL to CNS & back. From BNE on QF, JQ & VA. From OOL on JQ.

  • Geoffrey

    says:

    Thanapalasingham is a ‘player’ in aviation lol….god help us all…

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