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Djokovic drama put tourists off Australia, says Adelaide Airport MD

written by Adam Thorn | November 21, 2022

Novak Djokovic’s treatment by Australian authorities earlier this year has put tourists off visiting the country, Adelaide Airport’s MD has said.

Speaking on the Australian Aviation podcast, Brenton Cox added it was a “logical fear” for many potential visitors that they could also be detained or deported after arriving in the country.

Cox highlighted the incident, along with elements of Australia’s response to the pandemic, as harming the aviation industry’s international recovery.

“What we have seen is that it’s the Aussies who are getting out and seeing the world – but people aren’t coming here,” he told host Adam Thorn.


“I just remember looking at the scenes when Djokovic was being booted out of the Australian Open. And at that moment, you went, ‘Wow, it’s a lot of eyeballs on this.’

“And there are a lot of people who – similar to the state border risk – thought, ‘Well, if I come to this country, am I going to be trapped? Or am I going to be stuck in a detention centre?’

“Right now, probably most of the people coming from overseas are doing so to visit friends and relatives, or for essential business. The big free, independent travellers haven’t quite made their way here yet.”

Novak Djokovic was last year told by a court to leave the country because he wouldn’t confirm his vaccination status for the Australia Open.

However, the incident was controversial because he was initially granted a visa, before being put into immigration detention and deported after a legal battle that made global headlines.

Australia’s vaccine mandate was later rescinded, and last week the new Federal Immigration Minister ruled the former World Number 1 would be allowed to enter the Grand Slam next year.

Then Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in January the decision to expel Djokovic kept “Australians safe”, but former Immigration Department deputy secretary Abul Rizvi called his treatment a “stuff-up”.

Cox’s appearance on the podcast came after he used a keynote speech at the Australian Airports Association Conference to call on the federal government to pass laws to stop states from shutting their borders in the event of another pandemic.

“The past few years conditioned us to think that closing State borders is normal — it is not normal,” he said.

“We all know that aviation was impacted more than most industries globally thanks to border closures and travel restrictions, but most people thought that our Australian aviation experience was shared elsewhere — it was not. We were unique in how we splintered.

“Even New Zealand, with its draconian policies, was significantly better off. New Zealand does not have states. But it also chose, for example, not to cut off the North from the South Island.

“Nearly as many people were flying between countries in Europe as within Australia.

“Aviation was smashed globally but no more so than here. The fact we are now operating at a service quality and capacity level half as well as we are now is some sort of miracle.”

Recent industry-wide figures released by the Department of Transport suggest that Australia’s international recovery is stalling, despite domestic bouncing back to near-normal levels.

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Comments (20)

  • Craithie


    If people are so easily put off tourist-travel to here by what this twit did, then they weren’t serious in their intentions’ to start with.

    As time moves on, more genuine folk will travel here. They’re the type of tourist we want to see our big Country.

  • Graham Haxell


    All that was required was for Djokovic to be vaccinated and there would have been no problem. He created the problem and suffered the consequences, end of story.

  • Des


    If you don’t want to comply with the Australian rules , then don’t come here . When I travel to other countries I have to comply.

  • Col.jones


    I would say that the vast majority of tourists would be happy about the actions of the government in this matter. It has been difficult enough travelling with the spectre of Covid and being hospitalised in a foreign country but being stuck in a plane or boat with people who flout the rules and travel with an uncertain Covid status is totally unfair. The arrogance displayed by Djokovic and TA is outrageous.

  • Nicholas


    What can you say? They must be putting something in the water in Adelaide….
    This is the oddest thing I’ve read all year…

    • Ashley


      Back in the day, there were two ports in the world that ships were not permitted to take on drinking water.

      One was Aden, & the other was………Adelaide!
      Obviously things haven’t changed that much for the latter city.

  • chris


    It’s not a miracle. It is due to the passion and dedication of the people who work in the aviation industry. Their passion actually subsidises this strategic industry, a fact which is not generally understood or appreciated by the travelling public or the government.

  • Jean Neuville


    I tent not to agree to this excuse.
    Djokovic is an arrogant person who wanted to show everybody that he can override rules and regulations.
    And I as well as many , am happy that he got teached a lesson.

    I have been in Australia last month.
    And by simply following the rules there are no problems at all!!

    Don’t try to be Smart or above the law and you will be welcome in any country there is!!
    And riles right now are already much more relaxed except for China.

    Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Follow Rules and regulations ….or stay home!
    With this in Mind, Happy trip to everyone

  • Rod Pickin


    We must not forget that the U.S.A. probably denies more travellers entry into their country over visa infringements than we do in Oz so we must get the matter in perspective however, in the case of Mr. Djokovic, I am amazed that given the publicity surrounding his intended travel here he was not refused uplift at the point of departure overseas for Oz; there is a system in place for this to happen discretely and with respect for the dignity of all concerned. Allowing him to travel, considering all the facts, was not the smartest decision the authorities made and certainly attracted unfavourable press and embarrassment to our country.

  • That comment by Mr Cox would have to be ridiculous in the extreme….the majority of the world were in agreement about Djokovic and his refusal to comply with the country’s health regulations. He was also barred from other countries as well, remember.
    There is simply no way, no way at all, that anyone planning to travel to AUS at that time, would have considered Djokovic’s deportation as a deterrent from them visiting here.
    Again, we have big business, putting their own business before the health of the nation.
    I reckon, the ADL airport shareholders would have encouraged him to take this stand.
    This is pure grand standing by Mr Cox, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Jing legaspi jr


    …that’s a fact. ??

  • Francis


    Much about the lockdown was excessive, especially in Chairman Dan’s Victoria. But Mr Cox has a couple of factual errors here. Tennis Australia was the guilty party, not Novak, not Australia. After he obtained repeated advice that non-Australians needed to prove vaccination to gain entry, Novak was eventually instructed by TA to complete an online Visa application and incorrectly declare compliance, then boarded his plane. Border checks found that he was not compliant. It is good to see the technical 3-year ban waived as this was really a furure of Tennis Australia’s making, and Novak acted in good faith. He was perfectly entitled not to be vaccinated, and was willing to forego the Open rather than compromise. Whatever else may be said about our strict pandemic-era border policy, we suffered 614 Covid-19 deaths per million population in total, compared to 3-8 times that rate across Europe. It was policy on the fly, and some harm was caused, but much harm was averted. Easy to be critical in hindsight. Looking forward to some great tennis.

  • Your absolutely right, people who travel and think they should be able to anything they like should come to Australia. Forget measures to protect they local population, notoriety and social media is all that counts. Why isn’t someone getting rich and the locals pay for it like normal. Oh that’s right the government that was in at the time thought it would be a good idea to make Djokovic a symbol of their ineptitude. Sorry almost lost sight of the “FACTS”.

  • Peter


    What a load of hogwash.

    He has no factual evidence for this. And yet makes this controversial statement.

    What this Adelaide Airport manager idiot should be saying is the Djokovic is a Serbian ultra-nationalist – and not a nice man – and that people would congratulate Australia if it permanently banned him.

    I hope that the Board of Adelaide Airport takes disciplinary action against this dope having made such uncalled for comment. Moreover comments that verge on the political.

    Djokovic brought everything upon him self in the controversy that led to his expulsion from the country. In his arrogance, he thought that he was above the law.

  • Sarab


    It was indeed a bad decision. After granting a visa to him then to put him in detention and deport him in such a way was not acceptable but most of Australians will not accept that point. Why International Students are still not keen to come to Australia whereas they are keen to go to Other countries like Canada. Unfortunately Australia can not undo all these things now. But this will always be there on the records. Everyone was showing him as a poster boy. It was 100% political decision…

  • Kanga Adams


    Serves them right. One of my life’s ambitions was always to visit Australia. I thought they were great, friendly, fair minded ‘good sports’. After the way they treated Novak – the spiteful, vile abuse and the way a human being, one man, was singled out for destruction (as they hoped), I now wouldn’t go there on principle, ever. My opinion of the country, the people and its rulers is now at rock bottom. I will never forgive, nor forget, even though he, a better man, is prepared to. Not that they care what I think, I do get that.

    • Craig


      ……and yet you call your (supposed) first name ‘Kanga’.

      Something definitely not melding well there.

  • Bren


    Most people I know we’re thinking this guy is an idiot. I don’t think it reflects negatively on tourists incoming, the rules were pretty straightforward: get vaxxed and you’re welcome.
    If anything tourism is down because it’s so hard for the Chinese to leave and return home.

  • Trav Vixius


    The fools in this comment section are authoritarians just begging for daddy government to rule every facet of their failed lives. They have forgotten what freedom feels like after decades of being glued to the ABC spoon feeding them pure effluent from Canberra. Australia made giant inroads into pure totalitarianism with the pandemic and there is no reverse course now. Don in your neighbour for walking the dog, and arrest grandmothers in the coffee shop for being unmasked. Hang your ignorant heads in shame.

  • Wow!!! This comment section is obviously fake. I can’t possibly believe that this many people are this brainwashed. He made a personal choice,as he was allowed to do. There is no scientific proof that he hurt anyone and no scientific proof that getting vxd would make a difference for him or anyone else.
    Anyone part of this madness should start a meditation practice and look deeply at their own life as opposed to man that obviously has worked hard for his career/life.
    I really hope this warped perspective by brainwashed humans doesn’t affect his legacy.

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