Australian holidaymakers may be waiting far longer than hoped for their next overseas trip to Bali, with a top travel boss warning that it could take at least three years for international travel to return to normal.
The travel industry was brought to a crashing halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with Australia closing its borders to all non-residents and non-Australian citizens on March 19.
Anyone returning from Bali must be quarantined in a hotel for two weeks, effectively ruling out any holidays abroad.
Alexandre de Juniac, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, had hoped the industry could bounce back from the lockdowns but he now believes recovery will take far longer than expected.
‘What we have planned is to restart the industry, first by reopening domestic markets, then regional continental markets, such as Asia-Pacific, or Europe, or North America.
‘At the end of 2020, the traffic should be between 50 to 55 per cent of the same level that was in place in 2019.
‘So, we would lose something like half the traffic for the 2020.’
Both Australia and New Zealand currently require international arrivals to be isolated for 14 days, and the UK and Spain have also recently announced similar quarantine periods.
Mr de Juniac said international travel cannot re-start with mandatory quarantine periods in place, but the following 14-day quarantine period was deterrant to any would-be holidaymakers.
He said if there is a risk of quarantine when arriving to a country, most travellers would completely cancel their trips.
He proposed instead temperature checks and other measures at departure to keep symptomatic travelers from flying.
‘It is a risk-based layered approach to biosecurity that needs to be coordinated globally.
‘That’s important. The arriving country must be confident of the procedures in place at the departing airport. And travelers will need the reassurance of common measures.’
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy has also ruled out international travel for the foreseeable future as there is ‘no clear roadmap’ to reopening the nation’s borders.
He told a Senate inquiry into the government’s response to COVID-19 on Wednesday that border closures remained essential to defeating the pandemic.
‘I can’t see, I have no vision at the moment on the current international scene where international border measures of some very strong vigour won’t be necessary,’ he said.
‘There is no clear roadmap out of this.’
Professor Murphy said interstate and territory borders would be reopened long before overseas travel, noting COVID-19 cases were still being imported weekly through returned travellers.
He said Australia’s strategy was to maintain strong suppression, or elimination in parts of the country, while slowly opening up the economy.
Airlines have been struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic.
Virgin Australia was the first to fold with the company going into voluntary administration two weeks ago owing almost $7 billion.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is confident that domestic operations could return to normal by July.
Last week he said the flying kangaroo had become the envy of the aviation world given the country’s low infection rate and interstate travel market.
‘I don’t think there is any other airline in the world that has a market that is more positive than what we have,’ he told reporters.
While the airline will stay grounded for another two months, he said the carrier will remain on stand-by for a short notice return if the situation eases faster than expected.
‘Australia has done an amazing job of flattening the curve and we’re optimistic that domestic travel will start returning earlier than first thought,’ he said.
But Mr Joyce also warned ‘we clearly won’t be back to pre-coronavirus levels anytime soon.’