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‘Hermit nation’ strategy bites Australia but Tehan says tourists will be back

Singapore: Australia has plummeted from international standard bearer to a laggard with its approach to the pandemic but the nation’s beleaguered tourism industry is being told the good times will eventually return.

Speaking on Monday in Singapore, the first stop of his tour of Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and the United States, Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has predicted international tourists will be back in as great a number as before when borders reopen. That is despite other parts of the world gaining an advantage with faster vaccination rollouts allowing travel to resume.

Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan is making five stops on a two-week tour of Asia and the US.

Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan is making five stops on a two-week tour of Asia and the US.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Tehan is in south-east Asia as the Delta coronavirus variant threatens to overwhelm health systems across the region. With Sydney in its third week of lockdown, Australia has attracted renewed attention from abroad for the closed-border tactics to combating the virus that have resulted in more than 30,000 of its own citizens being unable to return home.

The UK’s Financial Times on the weekend published an editorial on the “fatal flaws in Australia’s hermit nation strategy”, namely the country’s failure to match the pace of other developed countries in procuring vaccines.

Amid the wreckage to Australia’s reputation, Europe, the UK and the United States have got a head start on opening up again thanks to far more effective vaccination rollouts.

Tehan, however, argues Australia’s tourism industry is still well positioned for an ultimate bounce back. It contributed $60.8 billion to the economy or 3.1 per cent of GDP in the last full year before the pandemic, with 9.4 million international arrivals. That fell to 4.5 million visitors last year, most of them before the virus took hold and borders closed in March 2020.

“I think the one thing that we can be really, really confident about as Australians is that the beauty of our product has not changed throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

An empty arrival terminal at Sydney Airport.

An empty arrival terminal at Sydney Airport.Credit:Brook Mitchell

“When we do open up and the globe opens up, I’ve got no doubt that the demand will still be there, to visit Australia and to see the wonderful tourism attractions that we have.

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