Australia’s battered tourism hopes for China’s reopening | Business and Economics

Sydney, Australia – CBT Holidays, a Sydney-based tourism company, hopes the reopening of China’s borders will revive Australia’s tourism industry after a year of “survival”.

The tourism industry lost access to its largest market in 2020 as both Australia and China closed their borders in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. For most of 2021, CBT Holidays, which focuses on package tours to China, has completely shut down operations due to a lack of customers.

Despite Australia’s reopening to visitors in February 2022 and efforts by many tour operators to tap into domestic tourism, business in most sectors fell to a crawl last year.

With Australians locked out of China, Chinese visits to Australia have fallen by more than 95 per cent from 1.43 million visitors in 2019.

“Initially, we had some compensation [the] The Australian government and the New South Wales government until a year and a half ago,” CBT Holidays product manager Eric Wong told AL Jazeera.

“And [then] We are out of business.

Now, as China reopens its borders from Sunday, millions of Chinese, including tourists, students and business travelers, are expected to travel overseas to places like Australia for the first time in three years.

“[It’s] Good news, the Chinese border is open,” Jimmy El, owner of CBT Holidays, told Al Jazeera, asking to be referred to by his first name and the initials of his surname.

“More or less, the business will come … and then we can make a profit again.”

However, he is wary of how long it will take for business to rebound, given the lack of flights in and out of China and the prohibitive cost of fares.

“For example, before, a return ticket to China was about 1,000 Australian dollars ($688). Now [it’s] 8,000, 9,000 [Australian dollars] ($5,500, $6,200)… to the economy,” he said.

Sun, managing director of China Travel Service, another China-focused operator in Sydney, agreed.

Currently there are “a couple of flights” from China to Australia, carrying a few hundred passengers, Sun told Al Jazeera, asking to be identified by his surname.

As Chinese airlines increase flights to and from Australia, Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, has yet to announce the resumption of routes to China.

“I think it will change a lot… As airlines increase flight schedules… I think the exchange of people between these two countries will become more and more frequent and then gradually return to normal,” Sun said.

China is reopening its borders after three years of strict pandemic restrictions [File: Andy Wong/AP]

So far, there has been little action from the Australian government to promote travel between China and Australia, although Chinese visitors accounted for 12.3 billion Australian dollars ($8.5bn), or a third of all tourism spending before the pandemic.

On New Year’s Day, Australia announced that travelers from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, must provide a negative COVID-19 test result before travel amid concerns that rising cases in China could introduce new and dangerous variants to Australia.

The Australian government announced the measures, following similar moves by countries including India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – despite advice from the country’s chief medical officer that no new restrictions on travel were necessary.

Beijing has condemned the measures, saying any COVID-19 control policy must be “proportionate” and “scientifically based” and not affect “normal travel and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation”.

Sun said he was not too concerned about the checks, which could prevent or prevent some Chinese from traveling to Australia.

“I think that’s great… it’s very fair,” he said. “Even now, for Australians or Australian-Chinese to travel to China, they still need a 48-hour COVID test. That is the same.”

“I think we need time — policy can change,” he said.

But Sun said more needed to be done to encourage the return of Chinese people to Australia as a whole.

“We need more [to] Reconnect with those hotels, those destinations, and then get new equipment, new contracts, and based on that we’re building a new product for Chinese inbound customers,” he said.

“Also we need to reconnect with the Chinese travel agency[ies] To develop a package tour product for Australians [travelling to China] So it took us two months to prepare for it.

At the same time, Sun said he has learned from experience that continuing to expand beyond China is vital for his business to ensure its future.

“You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said, adding that CTS has already begun to expand.

Meanwhile, companies like CTS are eagerly anticipating the influx of Chinese visitors.

Sun said that while he expected China to open its borders eventually, he did not expect it to be so soon.

That’s why people, especially those in the industry, are very excited to hear this news,” he said. “We are very excited. [It’s] good news.”

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