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Tourism body pleads with PM for roadmap to open borders

May 27, 2021 Headline News 3 Comments
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A major tourism body has written directly to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, pleading for a framework for reopening Australia’s borders – despite a public opinion poll showing that the overwhelming majority of Australians support the international borders remaining shut.

Almost three in four voters (73%) surveyed in an exclusive Newspoll for The Australian recently felt that international borders should remain closed until at least the middle of next year. They supported the government’s approach. Given such a level of support, many wonder what could persuade the government to change tack before the next election.

Against that, the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has gone to bat for the tourism industry, whose very survival is at stake.

Here is ATEC’s letter: 


Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you to seek urgent clarity on your plan for reopening our international borders and reconnecting Australian businesses to the global economy.

As we pass by yet another month of closures and continuing uncertainty, tourism export businesses are dismayed at the Federal Government’s lack of clarity or concern around setting a framework for reopening.

While the industry fully understands the importance of protecting the health of the Australian community, there is a desperate need for businesses to identify a clear roadmap by which they can plan and strategise for the future inbound tourism marketplace.

There is also significant concern at the slow rate at which the Government is applying more sophisticated, multi-layered risk management processes that enables Australia to manage the COVID-19 risk offshore.  Managing this risk through extensive pre-departure testing, tracking and tracing technology will minimise the chance of COVID-19 entering Australia and in doing so, avoid the significant costs incurred in managing the exposure to the community which we are experiencing through the current on-shore quarantine processes.

Below: Tourism snapshot 2018. A reminder of the boom times when the borders were open


The impacts on pure export tourism businesses are direct and clear – without international visitors they have no clients, no income and increasingly, no future.  More broadly for the tourism industry and many others, closed borders mean not only a limited client base but chronic staff shortages and the increasing risk of disconnection from the global marketplace and future growth opportunities.

While some businesses in our industry are surviving with an increase in domestic travel, this surge is short term and will no doubt change dramatically once our borders reopen and Australians can travel overseas again.  We simply can’t afford to be complacent and accept this short term situation as a long term comfort.  Without international visitors, our industry will slip, taking us back to a period where Australia was seen internationally as an expensive, inaccessible and unsophisticated destination.

We urge the Government to come forth quickly with a framework for reopening, one that outlines the conditions under which our borders will begin to open and one that recognises that Australia needs to get back in the game of international trade before we lose ground to those countries which have been able to vaccinate their citizens and move forward with rebuilding their economies and international engagement.

We look forward to your urgent response.

Peter Shelley

Managing Director,

Australian Tourism Export Council 


Edited by Peter Needham

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John AJ
May 27, 2021 9:18 am

Hey Peter – the issues with the Newspoll survey include that that it was conducted some time ago, that is between 15 and 29 March 2021 and the sample size was tiny, that is only 2,222 adults out of 25 million people so I think only 0.008% – hardly a size sufficient from which to draw any conclusions!

Peter Needham
Peter Needham
May 27, 2021 12:00 pm

Hi John!

All polls are samples which try to be as representative as possible. More polls will be conducted (and various political parties are no doubt holding their own polls!)

Apart from the Newspoll, published by The Australian last week, here are a few nuggets over recent months:

December 2020: Ipsos polling conducted on behalf of the Halifax International Security Forum shows more than eight in 10 Australians (83%) “believe that our international borders should be closed, not allowing anyone in or out, as relatively few believe the coronavirus is contained”.

February 2021: A significant majority of Australians think the Morrison government should keep the border closed until after the pandemic is under control globally, according to a Guardian Essential poll. The survey of 1109 respondents “suggests voters have adopted a fortress Australia disposition as concerns are heightened about more virulent variants of Covid”.

Earlier this month, May 2021: Lowy Institute polling on Australian attitudes to the pandemic found “almost all Australian adults (95%) say that Australia has handled Covid-19 ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’ so far. The proportion that say Australia has handled Covid-19 very well has jumped from 43% in 2020 to 65% in 2021.” Question ‘should borders be opened’ does not seem to have been asked, but only 18% of sample felt that all Australians should be free to leave the country.

John Alwyn-Jones
John Alwyn-Jones(@alwyn-jones)
June 19, 2021 11:19 am
Reply to  Peter Needham

Thx Peter – the issues with all these are the sample sizes!!

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