Hermit state reopens its border

WA recovery from lost income and jobs impact "not easily overcome"

Just three days shy of a 700-day self-imposed partition from the rest of the country, Western Australia has finally reopened its border.

The decision by the WA government see triple vaccinated Australians allowed entry, although Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) are required on arrival, and vaccinated travellers arriving from overseas are no longer required to undergo quarantine.

The news will be beyond welcome relief for the state’s accommodation and hospitality sector which, starved of tourists and enduring a concurrent staff shortage, has seen many businesses forced to close their doors, some permanently.

In line with the reopening, and as Omicron cases continue to increase, the WA Government has imposed new social distancing measures, initially to stay in place for four weeks.

These include making children from year 3 upwards wear face masks, home gatherings limited to 10 people indoors and outdoors except at weddings and funerals, and a 2sq/m restriction for hospitality and entertainment venues and night clubs.

The state’s vaccination rate is Australia’s highest with 99 percent of the population aged 12 years and above double-dosed and 64 percent triple vaxxed.

While welcoming the reopening as a positive step, Tourism Council WA CEO, Evan Hall said the impact of more than two years of border restrictions will continue to be felt by the decimated tourism sector.

“Tourism operators are ready for visitors to return today, but the financial cost and loss of staff will not be quickly or easily overcome,” he said.

Since the onset of border restrictions in January 2020, $4 billion has been wiped from the $12 billion WA tourism industry, with 20,000 tourism jobs lost and countless lives disrupted.

Mr Hall said the border delays and uncertainty had caused many events and holiday trips to be cancelled indefinitely. As a result, the border opening had not brought a flood of bookings to the decimated industry.

“Event venues and attractions are still being impacted by level 2 restrictions and the businesses that are suffering due to these restrictions will require support,” Mr Hall said.

“An opinion poll commission by Tourism Council WA shows Western Australians want to see the State Government supply support packages for the tourism industry.”

The poll, he said, found 75 per cent of respondents agreed that businesses disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions should receive financial support from the State Government.

Mr Hall said the border opening did not reduce the need for investment in aviation, tourism, and events.

In the poll, 69 percent of Western Australians called for the State Government to invest in these areas to recover jobs, business, and economic diversity once the borders opened.

“It is going to take time and support for the industry to recover the jobs lost, reputations damaged, and economic diversity,” Mr Hall said.

“Tourism Council WA is calling on a sizable support package where all businesses that have suffered financial loss are clearly eligible for funding.”


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