Coronavirus travel restrictions for each state


Thousands of Australians are cancelling trips to Queensland and tourism operators are bracing for a fresh wave of pain as Brisbane is plunged into a three-day lockdown to combat a local outbreak of COVID-19.

The snap lockdown, which began last night, prompted states and territories to quickly shut borders with either Greater Brisbane or all of Queensland days out from the Easter long weekend.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed eight new locally virus cases on Tuesday, with two active clusters.

Airlines, accommodation providers and tourism operators are being swamped with cancellations as holiday-makers heading to the Sunshine State scramble to change plans.

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Flight Centre boss Graham Turner reacted angrily to Ms Palaszczuk’s lockdown announcement on Monday, blasting it as “sheer lunacy” that could cost the tourism industry up to $2 billion.

“Locking Brisbane down will have a short-range three-day ­effect,” he told the Courier Mail.

“It will cost $1 billion to $2 billion, but the impact will last longer, and just as domestic travel was coming back.”

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the lockdown was an “unbelievable blow” that could be felt well beyond Easter.

“Consumer confidence will take an immediate hit, with interstate travellers reconsidering travel to Queensland,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

“It’s not just Brisbane – destinations like the Gold and Sunshine coasts will be severely impacted this week, and possibly beyond.

“Even if the lockdown ends in three days, the damage will be long-lasting. This couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

Holiday cancellations are expected to be particularly painful for operators in tourism-reliant regions of Queensland that had been banking on a rush of domestic tourists while international borders remained closed.

Cairns Adventure Group director Roderic Rees told the ABC while he understood the health concerns, the timing of the lockdown “couldn’t be worse”.

“The phone’s been ringing hot since the announcement … we had one point where we had all our lines on the go, all doing cancellations simultaneously,” he said.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth to us up here.”

Destination Gold Coast chief executive Patricia O’Callaghan said the industry was feeling anxious after a positive lead-up to the Easter travel season.

“(It’s) quite heartbreaking in terms of the timing, but this isn’t the first time we have been down this path before,” Ms O’Callaghan told ABC News Breakfast.

“Hopefully we can get through the next three days as quickly as possible and see the travel restrictions ease for Easter.”

While many of the fresh border closures applied only to the Greater Brisbane area, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged residents in her state to rethink their Easter travel plans if they were travelling “anywhere in Queensland”.

Ms O’Callaghan said regions like the Gold Coast were relying on Australians hanging onto their bookings.

“We need you right now,” she said. “We’re a $5.9 billion industry. One in six jobs on the Gold Coast rely on tourism. We need visitors. Especially during that Easter period. So, hold onto those bookings. We know you want to come here.

“Let’s get through the next three days.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the three-day lockdown on Monday as an outbreak in Brisbane grew.

During the lockdown, residents in Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands will not be able to leave their homes except for food, exercise, essential work and medical reasons.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown was tough but necessary as the new cases were the highly infectious UK strain.

“We‘ve seen what’s happened in other countries. I don’t want to see that happen to Queensland. I don’t want to see that happen to Australia. I know in is a really big call. I know it is really tough,” she on Monday.

“We have Easter coming up, we have school holidays coming up, but let’s do it now and let’s do it right and let’s see if we can come through it at the other end.”



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Peter Dutton and Richard Marles clash over government plan


Peter Dutton has accused deputy Labor leader Richard Marles of “drinking last night” in a lighthearted clash over the government’s tourism support package.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled the federal government’s post-JobKeeper plan for the tourism sector, centred on 800,000 half-price airfare tickets on selected routes.

But some tourism operators argue the package does little to support them. Mr Morrison was also forced to deny politicising the package, with many of the support areas in marginal or winnable seats.

Mr Marles described the package as a “lemon”, saying it would not alleviate job losses brought on by the end of JobKeeper later this month.

“Half-price tickets to marginal electorates, that’s fine,” he told Today.

“But there are so many tourist operators who are struggling with the fact that there is the necessary closure of our international borders.

RELATED: Federal government to offer 800,000 half-price flights in billion-dollar tourism boost

“The tourist sector has been looking to this for weeks now to see what the answer was going to be. What they have got here is a lemon.”

But Mr Dutton described the suggestion the money was allocated on political grounds as “almost defamatory”.

“I’m looking forward to Peter suing me for that comment,” Mr Marles replied.

“Richard has been drinking last night again,” Mr Dutton said.

“Now that’s defamatory!” the deputy Labor leader replied.

“I’ll see you in court. I’m there at 9am,” Mr Dutton said.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce welcomed the package, which also included support for international crews to help keep them afloat until international borders reopened.

But Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner on Thursday warned most tourism operators would be left without assistance.

He claimed destinations across north Queensland were mainly reliant on international tourism, saying a boost in domestic numbers would be unable to replace losses from the international market.

“This really is targeted to the aviation industry and maybe some tourist destinations … it certainly does not help us at all,” he said.

But Mr Morrison said the package would have a major flow-on benefit to tourism operators and businesses in areas with an influx of domestic tourism.

He said Qantas would begin working tourism operators on travel packages once the tickets were in circulation.

“The 50 per cent discount on the airfare gets combined with a hotel deal, a tour out on the Reef or wherever you happen to go,” he said.

“(They) package it up. That’s how the travel industry works, and they’re very, very good at it.”



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Is this the end of Australia’s COVID border closures?


A $1.2 billion program encouraging Australians to travel interstate won’t necessarily mark the end of border shutdowns, a tourism expert warns.

Some 800,000 half-price airfares to holiday hot spots offered to Australian travellers in a billion-dollar federal government bid to revive the nation’s struggling tourism industry.

The discount will initially apply to interstate flights to 13 key regions, including tourism-dependent parts of Queensland and Western Australia, where notoriously strict border rules hit particularly hard.

Despite the massive investment in encouraging Australians to holiday interstate, tourism expert Dr David Beirman said he didn’t think the days of border closures were necessarily behind us.

“It would be nice to think that this package will signal the end to state border closures. Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic and state government responses to it have a life of their own,” Dr Beirman, from the University of Technology, Sydney, told news.com.au.

“While the expansion of the vaccination rollout is likely to reduce the spread of the pandemic in Australia there is no guarantee that individual states will cease border closures or quarantine regulations in the event of a renewed outbreak.”

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Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick told ABC Radio National this morning the state reserved the right to shut its borders if necessary.

“We will act on the health advice,” he said. “Tthat’s been consistent the position we’ve taken all along and of course that was endorsed by the people of Queensland in the election last October.”

As intra-state flights weren’t included in the package, states that shut their borders would effectively be opting out.

Dr Beirman said he hoped the heavy presence of Queensland destinations on the discounted flight list, including the Gold Coast, Cairns, Whitsundays and Sunshine Coast, might encourage the state to keep itself open.

“As we have seen, several states, notably Queensland and Western Australia, have been very quick on the border closure trigger when an outbreak has occurred,” he said.

“However, the travel stimulus applying to key tourism destinations in Queensland especially may lead the Queensland government to take a more considered approach to lockdowns and border closures.

“Interstate travel needs more stimulus and rebuilding of confidence than intrastate travel, largely due to the disruptive impact of sudden border closures.”

Qantas boss Alan Joyce said he believed the scheme would be “an incentive for the states to keep their borders open”.

“And that’s important, because we can’t keep on going through the yoyo of the ups and downs of that,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the federal stimulus package a “ticket to recovery”, saying it would “take more tourists to hotels and cafes, taking tours and exploring our backyard”.

“That means more jobs and investment for the tourism and aviation sectors as Australia heads towards winning our fight against COVID-19 and the restrictions that have hurt so many businesses,” Mr Morrison said today.

The package has been welcomed by Virgin Australia and the Qantas Group, which said it would bring more domestic crew to return to the skies after domestic air travel was derailed by the pandemic.

But the scheme has also attracted criticism, including from Flight Centre boss Graham Turner, who said it would mean little to tourism operators who were not on the selected flight routes.

He also questioned how effective the scheme would be in regions that were on the list but which relied heavily on international visitors, such as Far North Queensland.

“I am not sure this will make much of a difference to them,” Mr Turner said.

“This really is targeted to the aviation industry and maybe some tourist destinations … it certainly does not help us at all.”

ACCOR chief executive Simon McGrath said the scheme ignored the nation’s big cities, which accounted for 60 per cent of the nation’s hotel accommodation.

“The reality is we’ve got 60 per cent of hotel stock in Australia in the CBD locations and the cities are operating around 20 or 30 per cent occupancy, so it pushes the travel out from those cities and does not address that major issue,” he said.

Dr Beirman said he believed the benefits of the scheme would filter down to accommodation, attraction and retail sectors in the targeted destinations, but felt much of the nation’s struggling tourism industry had been overlooked.

“While those destinations which are included will have good reason to be happy about the development, many popular Australian regional tourism destinations miss out,” he said.

“The stimulus measures are a welcome development but they are effectively a bandaid treatment to an all-of-tourism-industry problem.

“Until international tourism to and from Australia resumes it will be a case of tourism limping along until international borders re-open.”



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Family’s travel plans ruined over wheelchair debacle


A Brisbane woman battling muscular dystrophy has been barred from flying on a Virgin plane because her wheelchair is 1cm above the airline’s accepted height dimensions.

Emma Weatherley tried to book a trip from Brisbane to Cairns for next month on April 6 with Flight Centre, but was told the airline would not accept her motorised wheelchair height of 85cm aboard.

“I went to America in 2017 with Virgin – booked through Flight Centre – and took this exact wheelchair without any problems,” she told NCA NewsWire.

“This chair fits in the boot of my Corolla and apparently there’s not enough room on a Boeing 737. It defies logic for me.”

It comes after Virgin cancelled her trip to the United States late last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mother-of-two then got the money refunded in the way of a future travel credit and tried to book a domestic trip with her family instead, but the 40-year-old hit a curveball.

According to correspondence seen by NCA NewsWire, Flight Centre said Virgin was “unwilling to budge” on the height limit and “not willing to offer refunds on the credits”.

“The best option is to possibly go to the airport with your chair to check in, hopefully they accept it at the 85cm, but if they do not, then you would need to remove the wheels so it fits the accepted dimensions,” Ms Weatherley’s Flight Centre travel agent said in an email.

More correspondence from Virgin sent to Ms Weatherley suggested her chair “be dismantled or lowered below 84cm”.

But Ms Weatherley said her wheelchair “was not designed to be dismantled”.

“The wheels alone cost $10,000 and you would need to disassemble the motor inside them – it’s not designed for this, it will weaken the motors when they’re put back together.”

She also said hiring a manual wheelchair “was not an option”.

“I have muscular dystrophy – I don’t have the power in my arms to propel the wheels forward,” she said.

“I would literally need to get modifications done to my wheelchair to make it fit, which is ridiculous and would cost more money.”

Ms Weatherly wants a full refund of the $8500 she paid for her cancelled USA trip, rather than the travel credit she received.

“Travelling with a disability should not be made this difficult – it’s exhausting. If I can’t travel anywhere because of my wheelchairthen at least offer me a full refund.”

She said she did have travel insurance with “cancel for any reason cover”, but canned it once she accepted the flight credits.

Virgin said it did not accept electronic wheelchairs over the maximum height of 84cm for safety reasons.

If a customer’s wheelchair did not fit within the dimensions after being adjusted or disassembled they would need to travel with an alternative mobility aid – such as a manual wheelchair – which did fit within the allowable dimensions.

It’s understood Virgin provided Flight Centre with authority to provide a travel credit for the value of Ms Weatherley’s booking from Brisbane to Cairns.

Virgin Australia Group spokesman Kris Taute said: “We are working closely with the customers travel agent to resolve this case.”

Ms Weatherley’s travel agency Flight Centre confirmed it was working with Virgin on a solution.

“We have reached out to our contacts at Virgin to try and find the best possible solution however at this time, we do not have a clear response,” spokeswoman Anna Burgdorf said.

“We will continue to work with Mrs Weatherley to find the best solution for her circumstances.

“Flight Centre’s customers are incredibly to important to our business and we continue to advocate to find the best solution to any issues or concerns as they arise.”

Ms Weatherley has sought help from consumer advocate Adam Glezer’s group Travel Industry Issues.

The country’s travel industry has borne a brutal brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic after the federal government slammed international borders shut in March last year in a bid to stop the virus spreading to Australia.

Virgin collapsed into administration in April after it was no longer able to service its debts, while the pandemic forced the grounding of most of its fleet and starved the country’s second biggest airline of cash.

Deloitte stepped in to restructure Virgin, before selling it to American private investment firm Bain Capital.

Flight Centre posted a $662 million statutory loss after tax last year as a result of the pandemic, forcing the ASX-listed travel agent to close about 400 of the 740 stores it operated pre-COVID.

anthony.piovesan@news.com.au



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Trail of devastation as remains found on NSW beach


The discovery of Melissa Caddick’s remains — more than three months after she vanished from her Sydney mansion — sent shockwaves around the nation.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said today it was one of the most high-profile missing persons’ cases he had worked on in his 30 years on the force as dozens of investigators worked to find the missing conwoman.

Ms Caddick, 49, was accused of conning her friends and family out of more than $20 million through her fraudulent investment business Maliver Pty Ltd.

Ms Caddick disappeared from her Dover Heights home in the early hours of November 12, hours after investigators from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) raided her house and told her she would need to hand in her passports the next morning.

But the massive investigation into where Ms Caddick might be came to an end after three teenage boys came across a shoe at a beach on NSW’s south coast on Sunday afternoon. One of the campers went to dispose of the Asics jogger in a bin, only to make the horrifying discovery that there were bones inside, and alerted authorities, 9News reported.

Today police confirmed remains found on the remote Bournda Beach matched DNA of the missing woman taken from her toothbrush.

WHAT SHE DID

Leaked documents, obtained by news.com.au earlier this month, detail exactly how investors were duped into giving their hard-earned money to Ms Caddick.

Each of the investors happily gave their money following a “strong personal recommendation from people they trusted”.

All of her investors — who helped Ms Caddick eventually amass a $20 million fortune — were long standing friends of Ms Caddick or her family members.

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In almost all cases of those who chose to invest, their relationship with Ms Caddick or a family member had spanned for more than 20 years.

And in a further tragic twist, often the person who made the recommendation to invest had already been unwittingly sucked in.

Over the years, no red flags with Ms Caddick or her business were ever raised. Any investor who wanted to withdraw their funds had done so with ease, and on repeated occasions.

HOW IT UNRAVELLED

ASIC investigators launched an investigation in September 2020 after another financial advisor reported Ms Caddick was using her financial services licence without permission.

Investigators began to sift through the documents given to investors, finding nothing was legitimate.

Bruce Gleeson, the court-appointed liquidator, earlier this week said he had not found a single genuine document given to investors.

“There are hundreds of false bank statements, share contracts and share trading statements,” he said.

Mr Gleeson also admitted none of the CommSec accounts she gave to her clients “have been found to be true”.

It’s believed Ms Caddick was copying and pasting letterheads from CommSec to create the fraudulent documents and maintain investors’ trust.

‘LIVING LARGE’ ON INVESTOR FUNDS

Before Ms Caddick landed in the crosshairs of ASIC, the 49-year-old businesswoman and her husband Anthony Koletti were living the high life – all on the money invested into Ms Caddick’s allegedly fraudulent business.

There is no suggestion Mr Koletti, her teenage son or anyone else in her family had any knowledge or involvement in Ms Caddick’s alleged fraud.

A bank statement from Ms Caddick’s American Express card revealed the couple were forking out around $600,000 a year to fund their high-roller lifestyle.

Documents from ASIC revealed Ms Caddick had dropped a whopping $230,000 at Christian Dior, $120,000 on skiing trips to Aspen and $108,000 at Flight Centre between December 2017 and August 2020.

Dominic Calabria, a partner at Bridges Lawyers, who is representing a number of victims that trusted Ms Caddick with their savings, told The Sydney Morning Herald it was clear the Dover Heights couple had been “living large”.

HER DISAPPEARANCE

The night before she vanished from her $7 million home, Ms Caddick was filmed by ASIC investigators.

Panicking, Ms Caddick was seen on the footage questioning the officers from the Australian Federal Police and the ASIC investigators.

Ms Caddick was told she needed to hand her passport in and was informed her assets would be frozen.

In a sworn statement tendered at the Federal Court, investigator Isabella Allen alleged Ms Caddick heavily questioned her during the raid on November 11.

Ms Caddick questioned how she was to abide by a court order if her assets were frozen and asked when she would have to appear in court.

She questioned where she needed to drop off her passports and was she still able to use her credit cards.

When investigators told her she needed to give them a list of her assets and liabilities, Ms Caddick bit back, “How am I supposed to do that when you have taken my computers?”

“I am unable to answer that question and it may be best that you speak to a lawyer. Do you have a lawyer?” the investigator asked.

“No,” Ms Caddick replied. “I have no one to call.”

Hours later, at 5.30am on November 12, she slipped out of her family’s home and was never seen again.

A TRAGIC END

The disappearance of Ms Caddick baffled police and her friends and family for months but that mystery was solved this week when campers discovered a shoe, with a decomposed foot inside, on a remote beach.

Three teenage boys walking along Bournda Beach, near Tathra on NSW’s south coast, just after 12pm on Sunday made the grisly discovery.

The shoe matched the Asics jogger Ms Caddick had been last seen in.

DNA testing on the remains this week confirmed the foot belonged to Ms Caddick.

“(The foot) had been in the water for some time. Scientists were able to extract DNA from the foot and match it to a sample of DNA that we had already obtained from a toothbrush belonging to Melissa from her relatives,” Assistant Commissioner Willing told reporters.

“Police have always kept an open mind in relation to what the circumstances were for her disappearance, including the fact that Melissa may have taken her own life,” he said.

ASIC today offered its condolences to the friends and family of Ms Caddick and said it would push on with trying to uncover their lost funds.

“ASIC’s priority is to seek the return of funds to investors in the most efficient way possible”, an ASIC spokesperson said in a statement.

“ASIC will continue to work with the receivers and provisional liquidators to prepare for the Federal Court hearing listed on 7 and 8 April. ASIC considers the hearing should go ahead as a priority to seek return of funds to investors.”



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Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner says international travel could be back by June


He’s the head of Australia’s largest travel agency.

And now, less than 24 hours after the boss of Qantas announced international travel would be back by October, Flight Centre’s boss Graham Turner has made a bold prediction that Australians will be able to fly overseas much sooner – and without needing to quarantine.

Mr Turner, who has been vocal about the impact our borders have had on the recovery of both domestic and international tourism, said there was “no reason” for state borders to stay closed, especially given the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As long as the people who need to be protected are protected by vaccination, I think there’s no reason why we can’t start travelling,” Mr Turner told A Current Affair on Thursday, noting that once the most vulnerable get the jab, international borders should open.

RELATED: Qantas announces international travel will resume on October 31, 2021

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“I think once people who can get sick or die get vaccinated, which should be sometime in June … there should be some international travel.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said at the group’s half-yearly results, in which the airline reported a $1 billion loss, that international travel would not resume until at least the end of October rather than July as previously predicted.

Mr Joyce said most of Qantas’ international routes would resume on that date, including flights to London, Singapore and Los Angeles.

Three routes – New York, Santiago and Osaka – will return at a later date, with Qantas passengers able to fly to those cities with codeshare partners in the meantime.

However, flights to New Zealand are likely to increase from July as Australia maintains its travel bubble arrangement with its trans-Tasman neighbour.

In addition, Jetstar would resume flights to all 13 of its international destinations from October 31.

Mr Turner said that once Australians are vaccinated, they shouldn’t need to quarantine upon arrival home.

“With a little bit of luck, the vaccinations will make sure … any sort of risk is absolutely minimised,” he said.

The Federal Government closed Australia’s borders to international travel in March 2020.



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Flight Centre recovering from coronavirus pandemic but still remains fragile until vaccines are rolled out


Flight Centre says it has weathered the financial storm sparked by the coronavirus pandemic; however, the company says conditions remain volatile while the virus continues to stifle the international travel industry.

The global travel company on Thursday posted an interim loss of $233.2m for the first six months of the 2021 financial year, largely off the back of its holiday bookings business being grounded since March last year.

Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner said the travel company had lowered its cost base by approximately 66 per cent despite facing the toughest operating conditions in its near 40-year history.

“Rather than enter a holding pattern ahead of future domestic and international border reopenings, we are taking steps to ensure we are well placed for the eventual recovery,” Mr Turner said.

“We have become a leaner and more efficient business with a long liquidity runway, which has been crucial during this challenging and uncertain period.”

Flight Centre noted its recovery was largely dependent on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines, which are set to bring a higher level of consumer confidence and ease the anxiety of snap border lockdowns.

The company highlighted revenue intake in December had reached a new post-pandemic high to $33.5m, primarily a result from pent-up demand for domestic travel following the easing of state border restrictions.

It is anticipating pent-up demand for holidays domestically will assist in a swifter recovery for the business.

“Based on what we have seen so far, travellers have been keen to take off as soon as they have been allowed to do so, which should ultimately lead to a very solid rebound,” Mr Turner said.

The head of the Queensland-based travel company believes international travel will resume later in the year with countries deemed to be a low transmission risk.

“We expect travel restrictions will ease over the next few months given that high-risk and vulnerable people, who are being prioritised in most programs, will be protected,” he said.

“This should allow domestic travel restrictions to be removed permanently and international travel to return in some countries later this year, probably via low-risk corridors initially for those who have been vaccinated and have the appropriate health passports, which we believe will be mandatory and is an area that we have proactively expanded into.”

Flight Centre said it was unable to provide a guidance outlook for 2021 due to the pandemic.

It also during the first half of financial 2021 extended its liquidity runway by $1.2bn to assist in keeping the company afloat while operating conditions remained fragile.



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Vaccine passport could be required for international travel


They are being spruiked as the post-pandemic ticket to travel freedom.

A ‘passport’ of sorts which will play as a crucial key for cities and countries reliant on tourism dollars to revive struggling economies.

Dubbed the ‘vaccine pass’ or ‘vaccine passport’, these documents – which are yet to rolled out anywhere in the world – would essentially be a digital document than ensures tourists are virus-free when border lockdowns lift and travelling resumes.

The travel documents would be used in tandem with existing passports to prove tourists and other travellers aren’t bringing the virus with them when leaving their home country and arriving in another.

Some versions of the digital document, should it come to fruition, will also allow people to show that they have tested negative for the virus, and therefore can travel more easily.

The document could be a big asset for the aviation industry’s road to recovery, with such digital documents providing “confidence” and “ease of travel” among passengers.

Vaccinating against COVID-19 is the easiest way for Australians to get their normal lives back, but millions are hesitant to get the jab.

News.com.au’s Our Best Shot campaign answers your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine roll out.

We’ll debunk myths about vaccines, answer your concerns about the jab and tell you when you can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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According to The New York Times, in just a few weeks, Etihad Airways and Emirates will start using a digital travel pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association, to help passengers manage their travel plans and provide the airlines and respective governments documentation that they have been vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.

According to some experts, the rollout of this ‘golden ticket’ essentially proving a person’s

inoculation or immunity to COVID-19 will be pivitol, given parts of the tourism industry will not survive to a time when majority of the world has been vaccinated.

“The rollout of vaccines is a step in the right direction, but the restart of tourism cannot wait,” Zurab Pololikashvili, the secretary-general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, said in Madrid last month.

“Vaccines must be part of a wider, co-ordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel.”

While Australia is preparing to roll out the coronavirus vaccination program from the end of February, some state leaders have floated using government technology, such as the Services NSW app, as a vaccine passport to encourage uptake.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said last month that she would be open to using “positive ways”, such as a health passport to encourage people to vaccinate rather then punishment for not taking the jab.

“We have, through Service NSW, the ability to actually have people have a tick on their phone if they have received a vaccine, as evidence … so I think there are positive ways that we can incentivise people to take a vaccine,” she said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also threw his support behind a “vaccination passport” in November as a possible way to replace mandatory quarantine for both international and domestic travel.

“This is how we’ll travel around the country freely, this is how we’re going to travel around the world and it’s the basis on which we’ll invite people here,” Mr Andrews told radio station Triple M.

“There won’t be hotel quarantine once we get a vaccine. It’ll be ‘if you’re not vaccinated you’re not coming’.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce spruiked the idea of a health passport as part of travel with the Australian airline, suggesting mandatory COVID-19 immunisation will be required to board.

Mr Joyce said in November that his airline would make proof of vaccination a requirement for all passengers flying to or from Australia.

Graham Turner, the founder and CEO of the country’s largest travel booking group Flight Centre, agreed with Mr Joyce saying that the only way to have confidence is with a form of documentation that specifies a passenger’s vaccination status.

“The coronavirus is going to be around for the next few years at least and if there are effective vaccines … the obvious way to make sure that travellers don’t spread it a lot and don’t have to quarantine would be to have a vaccination requirement,” Mr Turner told the Sydney Morning Herald.

But while there’s a strong argument that a form of globally recognised vaccine documentation could help restart international travel, experts do have some fears around what protection these passports could ensure, and how the digital documents might be abused.

“It’s about trying to digitise a process that happens now and make it into something that allows for more harmony and ease, making it easier for people to travel between countries without having to pull out different papers for different countries and different documents at different checkpoints,” said Nick Careen, senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security at the International Air Transport Association said.

“One key element vital for the restart of tourism is consistency and harmonisation of rules and protocols regarding international travel.

“Evidence of vaccination, for example, through the co-ordinated introduction of what may be called ‘health passports’ can offer this. They can also eliminate the need for quarantine on arrival, a policy which is also standing in the way of the return of international tourism.”

The idea of digital documents have obviously caught the attention of technology giants around the world hoping to weigh in on the race to restart overseas travel.

Tech companies such as IBM have developed smartphone apps or digital wallets into which individuals can upload details of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.

Along with IBM, several other companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details about their COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, which could ultimately be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theatres and even offices.

Thomas Crampton, chief marketing and communications officer for The Commons Project, told CNN Business the development of these passports will be the future of travel.

“You can be tested every time you cross a border. You cannot be vaccinated every time you cross a border,” he said.



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Flight Centre boss Graham Turner


Flight Centre boss Graham Turner expects to know by Easter whether international flights will resume, as the government reveals it issued 1.4 million fewer passports in 2020 than the year before.

Mr Turner says the UK rollout of a COVID-19 vaccination and Israel’s plan to inoculate its citizens against the virus within a couple of months should provide clarity on the effectiveness of the treatment.

“The UK is undergoing a widespread vaccination program, Israel will be fully vaccinated in a month or two, so we will soon know how effective the vaccine is,” he said.

“If it decreases dramatically, it has the desired health impact … We will know that by Easter.”

He hopes the data will be positive and international travel will resume in the second half of the year, but only after the vaccine is widely rolled out in Australia.

“We then need widespread vaccination to happen in Australia and that could be by late July,” he said.

“There should be no reason why international travel cannot resume once Australian travellers are widely vaccinated.”

However, Australian National University professor Peter Collignon was not as optimistic about international travel resuming this year.

He said meaningful data on COVID-19 vaccines may be known well before Easter and, even if it was shown to be effective in preventing infection, it would not stop the spread of the virus.

“We are very likely to get meaningful data by Easter, I would think before that,” the infectious diseases physician and microbiologist said.

“Israel is talking about having reasonable data within a week or two … and how much effect one dose has had to two doses, because all the vaccine studies have been done with two doses.”

He said the vaccine was “not a silver bullet” and international travel was unlikely to resume even after inoculations were rolled out across Australia.

“It’s not a silver bullet, it’s a bronze bullet. It will be effective but not a cure-all,” he said.

“The most optimistic vaccine is 90 per cent effective and that’s preventing disease … it will not stop the spread as much.

“We are not really in a position to relax what we do until most the world is vaccinated and, realistically, that is not going to happen for another year or even two or three years.”

While Mr Turner is optimistic international travel will resume this year, Australians have not shown confidence in heading overseas any time soon.

There was a massive dip in the number of passports issued in 2020, according to figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

DFAT issued just 882,622 passports in 2020 compared to 2.2 million in 2019 and 2.09 million in 2018.

Oddly, streamlined renewals, an online application for a lost or stolen passport, increased from 39 per cent in 2018 to 48 per cent in 2020.

“Adult applicants can use our streamlined renewal service for up to three years after their passport expires,” a DFAT representative said.

AUSTRALIAN PASSPORTS ISSUED

2018: 2.09 million (39 per cent streamlined renewals)

2019: 2.208 million (41 per cent)

2020: 882,622 (48 per cent)

Source: DFAT.



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Holiday spots we’ve been ignoring too long


As we get busy exploring our own backyards this summer, some unlikely places have found themselves front and centre – and in hot demand.

These spots are usually overlooked by people planning summer holidays but in 2020 they’re finally starting to get the recognition they deserve.

Obviously these destinations are all dependent on any state borders you may need to cross to get there and what the rules may be at the time.

Caloundra, Queensland

Often overshadowed by its bigger, flashier Sunshine Coast neighbours, Caloundra is proving to be “just right” this year, coming in sixth on TripAdvisor’s 2020 Summer Travel Index. Dubbed “the Southern Gateway of the Sunshine Coast” and just under two hours from Brisbane, Caloundra has a vibrant town centre but its main prize is its stretches of golden sands – from the main tourist drag of Kings Beach to the more secluded Currimundi Beach. You can also dip your toes in the most northern point of Pumicestone Passage, the waterway that separates Bribie Island from the mainland.

Batemans Bay, NSW

With its crystal-clear beaches, the fresh fare that comes being at the centre of Australia’s Oyster Coast and only two hours from the national capital and four hours from Sydney, it’s easy to understand how Batemans Bay earned a high rating on Expedia’s most-in-demand destinations for summer 2021. Even if spending all day on Surf and Denham beaches is not your thing, there are plenty of other activities, like kayaking on the Clyde River, cycling the foreshore trail, scuba diving around the cliffs and bushwalking through nearby national parks. Expedia reports both Kiama and Jervis Bay further up the south coast are also this summer standouts.

Inverloch, Victoria

Tucked in northeast of Cape Patterson, Inverloch is a quintessential seaside Victorian town offering the best of both worlds – the safe waters of the turquoise-coloured Andersons Inlet as well as the brilliant beaches of the Bass Strait coastline. It’s a two-hour drive from Melbourne, adding to the reasons why Inverloch’s BIG4 Holiday Park has reported a 155 per cent increase in demand this year. The scenic Bunurong Coastal Drive, regarded by locals as a ‘mini-version of The Great Ocean Road’, shows off a range of great beaches and natural attractions like The Caves, reputed to have once been the hide-out of pirates.

Hobart, Tasmania

Hobart may not usually the first place that comes to mind for fun in the sun, but this year the capital of the Apple Isle is a star performer, with Flight Centre reporting bookings 41 per cent up from last year. For all the history of the city centre and the majesty of Mount Wellington, one of the major reasons people are Hobart-bound is the reopening of MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) which has been closed since March due to COVID. Now, tickets to the grand gallery are in demand, so bookings are essential. On Hobart’s steamier days when temperatures can hit 30C, head to Seven Mile and Kingston beaches to cool off.

Perth, Western Australia

For people from other states who want to get as far away as possible, it makes sense that Perth – all the way on the other side of the country – is Skyscanner’s top-trending summer destination, with new searches increasing 39 per cent each week. Behind closed borders for most of 2020, there’s real appeal in exploring the city and its superb surrounds like Margaret River and Rottnest Island. But for those just after days on the beach, there’s always-popular Scarborough, family-favourite Brighton and the surfer’s paradise of Trigg.

Mount Gambier, South Australia

This stopping spot on the road between Adelaide and Melbourne has become a favourite in its own right this summer, with demand for accommodation riding high according to BIG4 Holiday Parks. In Mount Gambier, be sure to get your lakes right as the sapphire-coloured gem Blue Lake and Valley Lake in town are lovely to look at but not for swimming. Just 14km down the road, however, the Little Blue Lake is the place for a dip. Then there’s the sunken gardens of the Umpherston Sinkhole, while the city itself is situated on the slopes of an old volcano, so there’s no shortage of trails to explore.

The Top End, Northern Territory

The triple treat of Darwin, Kakadu and Litchfield National Park is a winner, as Flight Centre reports the Top End has experienced a 347 per cent increase in bookings over the same time last year. Darwin beaches are mostly off limits due to the box jellyfish, but there’s plenty of history and culture to explore in the boom northern city. It’s a day trip to the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, complete with its rugged landscapes, while only 90 minutes in the other direction to the Litchfield National Park, where one of the best thrills is swimming under the thundering double waterfalls at Florence Falls.

This article originally appeared on Escape and was reproduced with permission



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