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.”
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.
“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.”