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As of 24th March this year the Australian government implemented a total travel ban for overseas travel to other countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here we were lazing about in Bali on a holiday when our family contacted us and said “Mum and Dad we think you should high tail it home”! You can imagine our shock and disappointment at having to cut our holiday short and then having to return home with newly enforced self-quarantine rules. However as time has progressed most of we Australians have got used to self isolation and not being able to venture too far from our homes. The future of travel for Australians is looking pretty grim!
Within Australia the majority of our state borders are also closed for non-essential travel, including Queensland, West Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. Many grey nomads and travellers have been affected by the border closures and a lot of them scampered to get home (if they still had one), to their home states before the borders closed.
For us, living near the New South Wales/Queensland border, the closure of the border into Queensland has been very inconvenient as we still have family and friends here. My husband still works part-time with all of his work being in Queensland. Our bank branch, doctors, dentists, financial advisor, solicitor, etc are all located in Queensland. So you can imagine what a nightmare this has been for us.
With all non-essential travel being banned in Australia this has meant that airlines are barely operating, airports are closing, public transport has been heavily impacted, cruise ships halted, travel agencies closed down, online travel booking websites have taken a beating, tourism businesses have ceased, caravan parks have closed and many accommodation providers, like hotels, Airbnbs and holiday units. In fact the entire travel industry has been crushed.
One of Australia’s domestic airlines, Virgin Australia has been placed into voluntary administration because of a huge debt and lack of revenue, and there are hundreds of aircraft parked on unused runways throughout the country. Australian airports currently resemble ghost towns!
For us a planned overseas trip to Spain and Portugal at the end of August has been cancelled. We are still in the process of trying to get refunds or credits for our flights, cruise deposit and prepaid accommodation. Although we’re terribly disappointed we are also relieved that we’re staying put for the time being until it’s safe to travel again.
According to Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway: “New Zealand is probably going to be the most attractive and most likely the first international destination to open up for Australia over the medium term.” There has been some talk of flights resuming between Australia and New Zealand in the near future.
Plus there is also talk of expanding a potential trans-Tasman bubble to the Pacific that would help to stop its tourist industry from going under. Pacific Island destinations such as Vanuatu, Fiji, Palau and the Cook Islands are all friends who depend upon Australian and New Zealand visitors for a substantial part of their economy. So let’s hope that we may be able to travel to some of these places in the near future.
As for travel to the United States and Europe conservatively it may take another 12 months before we can travel to these destinations. There are simply no guarantees that Australians will be able to take an overseas holiday prior to Christmas 2020.
It has been predicted that travel within Australia may start again in late May and “pick up during June” depending on what border closures remain in place. However the process is likely to be gradual with different states opening up their borders depending on the number of Coronavirus cases.
A few days ago Jetstar and Qantas Airlines announced that they have started opening up more interstate routes from June onwards that may support the theory that domestic travel is opening up again.
My belief is that the majority of Australians will be keen to travel close to home when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. According to a survey conducted by University of Queensland Business School researcher Associate Professor Gabby Walters, more than half those surveyed wanted to travel, and many had already started researching their next holiday. The key points of the results of this survey were:
I don’t know about you but we are already planning a caravan trip up to North Queensland once travel restrictions are lifted and we feel safe to get on the road. In fact we are joking with our friends that there’s going to be a mass exodus of caravanners when the borders and caravan parks are open again!
Caravan Parks and camping grounds were all closed down to tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions back in March, with permanent residents being exempt. With an estimated number of nearly 80,000 caravanners still on the road across Australia right now, there were some very good arguments for keeping the caravan parks across Australia open.
Caravan park operators were requesting that they keep open to accommodate essential travellers, as well as provide appropriate and managed accommodation for those already on the road and unable to get home. With motorhomes and caravans having their own on-board bathrooms and cooking facilities, without the need for utilising caravan park common amenities, this only made sense.
The latest news is that some caravan parks are starting to re-open for business with strict guidelines in place. All Western Australia, South Australian and Northern Territory caravan parks are open for leisure travel with some border controls in place. For all other states you may now start booking some caravan parks from 1 July 2020.
Safety measures put in place range from contactless check-ins to deep cleaning procedures, and increased spacing between caravan sites. This also means that shared amenities like playgrounds, swimming pools, camp kitchens and amenity blocks currently remain closed. Plus social distancing rules are enforced between fellow caravanners.
Recently National Parks were re-opened in Queensland, allowing day trippers to enter the parks for walks and picnics, with a 50 kilometre travel rule being put in place. It is yet to be seen whether this will work as many of us are feeling the effects of cabin fever.
I would imagine that once state borders are re-opened we will also see the lifting of non-essential travel restrictions and the re-opening of caravan parks and camping grounds at the same time.
We’re all well aware that the Australian Bushfire crisis all but destroyed the tourism industry in small towns and villages across Australia. So now they have been hit with a double whammy with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic crushing the hopes of these small regional towns regaining some sort of income from the tourism sector.
According to the Chief Economist at the Regional Australia Institute, Kim Houghton: “Places that would be most effected by coronavirus would be small towns, rather than big holiday destinations such as those in South-East Queensland.”
“So for those smaller places where there isn’t a lot a lot of other activity going on, reliance on tourism is much higher, paradoxically, than in some of those more well known tourism destinations,” Dr Houghton said.
But he said they would also be attractive, low-risk destinations when local travel opened up again.
I for one am hoping that a surge in domestic tourism will help some of these small towns get back on their feet and make up for the shortfall of international visitors. My aim is spend some time either day tripping or holidaying in these regions and supporting local businesses and producers in our towns. For those of you who had overseas travel plans I would implore you to travel within Australia this year and help get our economy back on its feet.
Please note: This information was sourced via several tourism authorities and news channels including: (Australian Government Department of Health, ABC News, Australian Tourism Industry Council, Tourism Australia, University of Queensland Business School, Regional Australia Institute, Caravan Industry Association of Australia), and was correct at time of publishing.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.