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‘Devastating’: CEOs’ urgent border plea to premiers

Tourism chief executives have called on state premiers to open borders. Source: The New Daily/Getty
Tourism chief executives have called on state premiers to open borders. Source: The New Daily/Getty

Chief executives in the tourism industry have called on state governments to open interstate borders in an open letter, saying their businesses may not be able to sustain some 660,000 jobs beyond Covid-19 should they remain closed.

Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner, Intercontinental Hotels Group managing director Leanne Harwood and Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth are just three of a long list of executives imploring governments to lift restrictions.

“The events of recent weeks, in particular the ongoing changes to policies around borders and access to interstate travellers, have resulted in crippling uncertainty among tourism operators and would-be travellers alike,” the letter states.

“Guests who had previously been prepared to postpone travel have now cancelled in light of the latest announcements on long term border closures.

“Fundamentally, we have seen these decisions erode confidence in the domestic tourism product and foresee serious, long-term damage to Australian tourism as a result.”

The letter stated this should have been the “moment” for the tourism industry to welcome a new domestic market, but instead border closures have been just another “devastating setback”.

“This is an industry that directly employs over 5 per cent of the nation’s workforce or around 660,000 Australians, with millions more indirectly employed in or reliant on the tourism industry,” the letter stated.

“This effective shutdown of the industry affects tourism businesses such as hotels, airlines, tour operators, travel agencies and attractions, as well as a wide range of other businesses which supply tourism operators or who benefit from visitors’ spending, particularly in regional Australia.”

And when JobKeeper ends in March 2021, CEOs believe existing tourism businesses simply won’t be around to employ Australians.

“When international borders reopen, it is likely that the tourism industry will be so diminished that we will not be able to accommodate the number of international visitors that Australia needs to bolster our economy.”

Business groups warn of ‘crippling’ border effect

This is the second open letter penned to state governments about the border rules, with around 30 business groups urging the Prime Minister to provide some clarity around border restrictions, or risk further damage to the economy.

The business groups warned the piecemeal border closures are “impacting families, destroying jobs and crippling” the economic recovery.

"A transparent and easily understood set of nationally consistent principles is urgently needed," the groups said.

"This would allow states and territories to apply a uniform set of internal border controls in response to outbreaks or changes in conditions."

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce also blamed border closures for the decimation of the aviation industry, saying a national framework on restrictions would boost domestic flying.

"We're not saying, 'open the borders' blankly," Joyce said. "We're saying, 'Let's have the rules to say what would you have to see in order for those borders to be open.'"

Qantas profits plunged 91 per cent in the financial year, with the airline losing nearly $2 billion after tax, and axing some 6,000 jobs.

Jim’s Mowing founder Jim Penman also asked Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to “step aside” in an open letter slamming the state’s Stage Four restrictions.

“You are mismanaging the COVID crisis and sending Victoria into a spiral of deep despair,” Penman said.

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