Australia has finally opened its borders to international tourists after banning their arrival for nearly two years.
Qantas’ only operational A380, VH-OQB, serviced the historic flight that departed LAX at 9:02pm on 19 February as flight QF12 and landed in Sydney this morning at 6:16am.
It marks Australia’s final stage of reopening its borders after previously allowing residents and citizens to fly in November last year, before opening to students, backpackers and skilled migrants in December. The federal government progressively increased travel restrictions from late March 2020 as COVID cases rose.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, “It’s fair to say we’ve all been waiting a long time to welcome visitors back to Australia.
“The thousands of international tourists arriving this week and many more over the coming months will help kickstart the tourism industry which has done it tough for the past couple of years.
“We can clearly see from the Australian government’s announcement that people are very keen to come back to Australia, and we continue to see strong bookings out of the US and UK, as well as South Africa and Canada.”
The Qantas Group will fly more than 14,000 passengers into Australia this week, and on Monday, it will also operate flights from eight destinations including Vancouver, Singapore and London.
Jetstar’s first unrestricted international flight, JQ18, will touch down in Melbourne from Phuket at 10.05am and QF70 from Delhi to Melbourne will arrive at 1.35pm.
Virgin dramatically scaled back its international network during COVID, and now operates only shorter-haul overseas flights. However, chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka called today the point that “things start to turn” for the local industry.
“Since the announcement of Australia’s reopening to all overseas travellers, we have seen positive trends in bookings across our domestic network as a result of increased consumer confidence,” she said. “This will no doubt flow through to our short-haul international services which are due to recommence next month.”
While Australia’s international borders have opened, each state and territory are operating different entry requirements, with WA still remaining closed to both interstate and international travel.
All arrivals will also be required to have two doses of an approved COVID vaccine.
Some tourists were previously allowed to enter under travel bubble arrangements that Australia implemented with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
Last week, Australian Aviation reported how Tourism Australia launched a $40 million global campaign to bring international tourists back Down Under in 2022.
It’s the first widespread international campaign that the government tourism body has been able to produce and run since before the COVID pandemic and the 2020 bushfire crisis.
The new campaign, called “Don’t Go Small. Go Australia” includes a 30-second ad being rolled out across global markets, including Germany, France, Italy, the US and UK, from 14 February.
The 30-second TV advertisement features a montage of iconic Australian landscapes, including The Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour and Uluru, and encourages overseas travellers to “come and say g’day”.
The campaign also includes advertisements across print, digital and social channels.
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said Tourism Australia has been preparing to ramp up its international marketing efforts, once the border reopening was announced.
“The world has been waiting two years to get Down Under for a holiday and our latest ad campaign will remind them of what they’ve been missing,” Tehan said.
“After COVID-19, the world is looking forward to taking a holiday and we want that holiday to be in Australia.
“This new campaign is just the first step in a long-term strategy to restart tourism to Australia, with further investment in tourism marketing campaigns internationally to come in the second half of the year.”