When COVID hit, most countries followed a similar border closure and re-opening strategy but countries in Oceania seemed the bring down the hammer on COVID with aims to reach zero local transmissions.

Australia and New Zealand had some of the strictest lockdowns and border closures in the world, with even citizens of down under not being able to return home to see family for months on end.

In July 2022, incoming passengers breathed a sigh of relief into their masks when the country scrapped the Digital Passenger Declaration app, marking one of the final phases to get back to normality.

Vaccination and health status declaration programs have caused major delays at airports worldwide and discouraged many to travel but the end of this measure should bode well for Australia’s tourism numbers.

covid travel limited to Australia

Remaining border restrictions in Australia

It is not all good news at Australia’s borders for everyone.

Travellers from Hong Kong, China, and Macau are still subject to various COVID-19 measurements when entering Australia.

Before the pandemic, China represented almost 16% of the incoming tourist market, bringing in an estimated $12 billion which represents 33% of the total tourism income.

The Tourism and Transportation Forum of Australia conducted an impact study, revealing many telling numbers about the loss of tourism from the Chinese market.

In an effort to return to those numbers safely, Australia re-instated peak pandemic measures including COVID testing within 48 hours of boarding and proof of negative test results.

These rules apply to everyone entering from any of the 3 points of origin, regardless of citizenship.

Those entering by sea are exempt as well as people on medical evacuation flights, people with a medical condition preventing them from getting tested, and children under the age of 12.

People who have had COVID in the last 30 days can enter if they have proof from a medical practitioner that they no longer pose an infection risk or show symptoms.

Travelers should also be advised that there might be state-wide restrictions, prohibiting some people from entering establishments if they are not vaccinated but this is continuously being updated and visitors should enquire closer to their arrival.

flights into australia

Tourism recovery plan of action

The ruling party, the Liberal Party of Australia, has outlined several key points that they wish to address to help the Australian tourism sector recover.

The party created the  THRIVE 2030 Strategy to create long-term sustainable growth in the visitor economy, returning it to $166 billion by 2024 and growing to $230 billion by the end of the decade.

International arrivals, especially backpackers, are being targeted with a marketing plan of more than $45 million while almost $7 million is set aside for data capturing and research to help the industry improve across the board.

They will also be investing heavily in conservation efforts with nearly $27 million going toward national parks and $1 billion going to protect the Great Barrier Reef, an industry that could potentially inject $6 billion into the economy.

The three core strategies for the tourism recovery plan are collaboration, modernization, and diversification; all while supporting indigenous tourism businesses, investing in national parks, and promoting regional tourism.

Australia will also look to benefit from the more than 15 major international sporting events coming in the next decade, including the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic games.

travel restrcitions for Australia

Promising recovery numbers

South Australian Tourism Minister, Zoe Bettison, was elated to announce successful post-pandemic figures for her territory.

“The total value of tourism in South Australia has now recovered to 90% of its pre-pandemic record high of $8.1 billion,” she said.

“We’ve hit new record-highs for intrastate and regional tourism spend, and the interstate market is booming having almost fully recovered. This is a clear sign that economic recovery is well underway in our state but we will not stop at that as now is the time to plan for the future.”

Australia’s annual tourism forecast found that the domestic figures already surpassed pre-pandemic levels and it is predicted that these figures would be 9% higher by 2027 than it was by 2019.

“While the pandemic stunted growth in international visitor numbers by several years, travellers are returning, and Tourism Australia’s new global campaign is sure to convert the pent-up demand for an Australian holiday to see our iconic destinations and friendly faces, into bookings” read a December 2022 statement from the office of Senator the Hon Don Farrell.

“I have been delighted to see Australians getting out and about around our country this year, and I look forward to our tourism and travel businesses welcoming more international visitors in coming years” he added.

International arrivals are set to hit 3.5 million by the end of 2023 and Australia is aiming to more than double this to 9.5 million by 2025 and 11 million by 2027.