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PM and National Cabinet set vaccination target for domestic and international travel and tourism?

August 2, 2021 Coronavirus (Covid-19), Headline News No Comments

In bad news for domestic and also international inbound and outbound travel and tourism, media reports over the weekend say that Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the National Cabinet has agreed in principle on vaccine targets for Australia’s path out of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 70% of eligible Australians needing to be vaccinated to get to the next phase under the four-part plan he outlined last month and CLICK HERE to view the plan.

Outlining the vaccination plan after a meeting of National Cabinet, he refused to set timelines, but he indicated Australia will move into Phase B when 70% of the eligible population is double-dose vaccinated could be hit before the end of the year, saying, “We will hit these targets with what I believe will be a gold medal run to the end of the year” and into Phase C at 80%, with a time not given.

Currently only around 40% of Australians have had their first dose, with due to the failure by the Federal Government of the vaccine rollout, only just over 18% are fully vaccinated, meaning 52% have yet to be vaccinated.

It is also reported that any state or territory can only move into the next phase when the average is achieved at both a national and state level and that it’s a high target in comparison with the rest of the world.  This is presumed to mean that even if a State or Territory can achieve the %’s required it cannot move to another level until all other states nationally have achieved that, making this a national policy.

Morrison said, “I note there are only two countries, significant countries, that have reached a 70 per cent level of vaccination, double-dose of their eligible vaccination – the United Kingdom and Israel.”

He said that said lockdowns will continue to be part of life in the first phase of his plan out of the pandemic and will remain possible, although less likely in phase B, adding, “Track, trace, isolate and quarantine remain very important parts of the program,” and “When you reach 70%, the advice is you have built up a much more significant level of protection, which enables the usual settings and levers that we have to deal with an outbreak, particularly Delta, are able to be more effective.”

The prime minister said 80% of the eligible population will need to be vaccinated to move to phase C of the plan, with in this phase, “broad-based metropolitan-wide lockdowns” will be a thing of the past.

It is reported that the National Cabinet is using new scientific modelling from the Doherty Institute to weigh up the health risks of reopening, against the economic pain of restrictions, with Mr Morrison saying international arrival caps will be restored to around 6,000 to the current 3,000 after 70% vaccination is reached, with more than 35,000 people registered as trying to get home who can’t due to the flight caps and caps on vaccinated Australians returning will be abolished altogether in phase C.

Mr Morrison has said there will be a gradual reopening of “inward and outbound international travel with safe countries”, saying a country would be considered safe if it had the “same sort of vaccination levels as Australia” along with “proportionate quarantine”.

He also said people entering Australia would need to have a “recognised” vaccine, in order to reap the potential benefits including skipping quarantine and the final phase of getting back to normal has no vaccination target, with Morrison adding, “It is too hard to say what the situation will be down the track,” and “It will depend on the booster program, which we have ample vaccines for”, and “But the durability and the proof of those vaccines over time, there are too many unknowns before we can understand life as normal, but that’s certainly where we are heading.”

So, what does this mean for travel and tourism?

For domestic travel and tourism, it appears that lockdowns could continue for some time, making, travellers decision-making challenging and also challenging for the domestic tourism industry, with travellers also appearing to be increasingly wary of booking domestic travel that is flights and accommodation, only to be locked down, and then not receiving refunds.

Therefore, if the domestic sector is to survive and still attract domestic visitation, it is suggested that some in the domestic sector will need to rethink their strategies and terms and conditions around deposits and refunds to give domestic travellers more confidence to travel and not risk losing their money.

It is also anticipated though that as the weather improves, towards spring and summer, Australians will still want to travel domestically and it is hoped that outbreaks as currently in Sydney and New South Wales will be brought under control, and others will not occur.

In addition, control mechanisms will also simply need to be complied with to allow travel domestically to largely resume.

Regarding outbound and inbound international travel, all that Morrison has said is there will be a gradual reopening of “inward and outbound international travel with safe countries”, saying a country would be considered safe if it had the “same sort of vaccination levels as Australia” along with “proportionate quarantine”.

What that means in real terms is not clear, but it is thought the bubble with New Zealand will restart once the current NSW outbreak and others are under control and also the possible bubbles with other countries may commence, but which they might be is not known, although in addition to New Zealand speculated to be some of the Pacific Islands and Singapore, if their numbers match or exceed Australia’s.

There appears to be an element of fear and even a lack of knowledge of the industry and its sectors, in Morrison and the National Cabinet’s announcements and the virtually none or very limited reference to international travel except the inbound caps.  All that has been said is the statement that there will be a gradual reopening of “inward and outbound international travel with safe countries”, saying a country would be considered safe if it had the “same sort of vaccination levels as Australia” along with “proportionate quarantine”, which does suggest that international travel even for the double vaccinated will be some time off and thought to be not until the very maybe, 70% or even the 80% Phase C Consolidation Phase is reached, therefore at the end of the year at the very earliest, or more likely well into 2022.

This is supported by Morrison’s statement that people entering Australia would need to have a “recognised” vaccine, in order to reap the potential benefits including skipping quarantine and the final phase of getting back to normal has no vaccination target, with Morrison adding, “It is too hard to say what the situation will be down the track”.

His adding, “It will depend on the booster program along , which we have ample vaccines for”, and “But the durability and the proof of those vaccines over time, there are too many unknowns before we can understand life as normal, but that’s certainly where we are heading” also suggest that it will be well into 2022 before any scale of international travel by Australians will become anything like the previous norm.

As a result, my interpretation is outbound and inbound international leisure travel appear to be not on the cards until early or even mid 2022 and with no lifting of the international travel ban anytime soon until 2020.

No mention was made in Morrison’s comments about cruising, therefore my conclusion in relation to that is that even domestic cruising is not even on the agenda or being considered by the government, with no lifting of the cruising ban at all likely on its next review date of 17 September 2021 and only slightly possible on the next review date after that of 17 December 2021, but in reality not until Phase C is reached in 202.

So not good news at all for either the domestic tourism sector or inbound or outbound international travel, or even cruising, with my feeling being from Morrison’s comment and also what he says in media appearances, that he appears to be blaming the Australian public for this situation and not being vaccinated, which has clearly become a key factor.

Whereas the reality is that the blame for the dire vaccine rollout lies at Morrison’s feet, therefore responsible for the economic and mental suffering this country is going through and the delay in reopening.

Finally, please let us have your views and interpretation and we will also be asking industry leaders of a range of sectors for their views.

A report and opinion by John Alwyn-Jones, Special Correspondent Travel and Tourism, Global Travel Media.

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