Flight Centre’s managing director Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner has said that the Queensland government’s border roadmap shows elements of “xenophobia” and is discriminating towards certain Australians.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Monday that Queensland’s tough border restrictions will be eased once the state reaches its 70 per cent double vaccination rate, which is expected by 19 November.
From then, domestic travellers will be allowed to return to Queensland, pending a negative PCR test and 14-day home quarantine.
Meanwhile, when the state hits the 80 per cent target – expected by 17 December – double-jabbed Australian citizens and residents will be welcomed from overseas. However, they will also need to home quarantine, while fully vaccinated domestic travellers can enter the state quarantine-free.
Speaking at the Flight Centre Illuminate conference on Thursday, Turner argued that as the industry returns to normality, Queensland should bring forward the date of allowing overseas travellers to enter without quarantine.
“I’d argue, what’s different if you’re an Australian or a family of an Australian or returning Australian from overseas … between that and someone returning from Melbourne?” he said.
“I’m pretty sure the Queensland government will revise that once they see that it’s pretty silly discriminating between different sorts of Australians,” Turner added.
Turner said he is not sure whether it’s based on different nationalities but claimed “it might be an element of xenophobia”.
Palaszczuk has reigned a stricter border roadmap compared to NSW which is slated to welcome fully vaccinated Australians and residents into the state by 1 November, with no form of quarantine required.
Over the course of the pandemic, the states have continued to take different approaches to border closures, which inevitably impact major travel and aviation companies.
Closing the 2021 fiscal year, the Flight Centre Travel Group recorded a $507.1 million underlying loss before tax, worse than the company expected.
Despite this, Turner said it has curbed its losses and returned to profitability, as well as reaching 30 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 levels in Australia.
“We are bringing a lot of previous people back … we’ve kept in touch with them through an alumni program,” he said.
Last March, along with shutting down 30 per cent of its leisure outlet shops, Flight Centre was forced to stand down or make redundant 3,800 sales and support representatives.
Turner said while previous employees may now have other jobs, he believes they will consider returning.
“I think a lot of our people do love travel, they will want to come back and to travel … and that’s certainly the indication we get at the moment,” he said.
According to Turner, the company will focus on rehiring employees who were stood down first, before recruiting brand new members, as travel demand picks up.