Australia to reopen borders to tourists on February 21, nearly two years after closing

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says fully vaccinated travellers will be welcome Down Under later this month

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After an almost two-year closure, Australia will finally reopen to tourists again later this month.

From February 21, vaccinated visitors will be able to travel Down Under as the country welcomes foreigners and eases border restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the news at a media briefing in Canberra on Monday.

Scroll through the gallery above to see Australia's top 10 must-dos for tourists.

“If you're double-vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia,” he said.

It's the first time that tourists will have been able to visit since Australia shut its borders in March 2020, at the onset of the global pandemic.

Tourists must have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine for travel, with no rules in place for booster shots at this stage.

It is likely that negative PCR tests will also be required for overseas visitors, as most domestic travellers in Australia need the same no more than three days before flights to other states to be exempt from quarantine procedures.

Qantas staff welcome back travellers arriving on the first quarantine-free international flights at Sydney International Airport in November 2021. EPA

Qantas, Australia's flag carrier, previously announced that it would only allow vaccinated travellers to fly on the airline.

Visa holders who have not received a Covid-19 vaccination will need exemption to enter the country and must follow any state quarantine requirements on arrival.

Authorities at Brisbane Airport in Queensland are “ecstatic at today’s announcement that international borders will reopen to fully vaccinated travellers and tourists”, said a statement from Brisbane Airport Corporation.

Tourists hoping to visit Western Australia may need to wait a little longer to travel.

The territory, home to Perth and famed for its sprawling Outback, has already delayed its domestic border reopening and kept 14-day quarantine guidelines in place, a rule that is likely to prevent most international tourists from entering the state from overseas.

A staged-reopening

Travellers arriving at a deserted Qantas terminal at Melbourne Airport in August 2021. AFP

The news is the latest development in what has been a slow and steady reopening in Australia.

Its borders remained tightly closed for 20 months, before reopening in November 2021 for quarantine-free travel for citizens, permanent residents and their families. In December, it opened to fully vaccinated international students, skilled migrants and backpackers with Working Holiday visas.

The new February 21 reopening date is good news for Australia's tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the drop in revenue from overseas visitors and domestic border closures.

The nation recently made headlines after tennis ace Novak Djokovic's hopes for a Grand Slam title were dashed when a court upheld the government's decision to cancel his visa over his unvaccinated status.

Rapper Kanye West, who recently changed his name to Ye, has also been warned that he must be vaccinated ahead of a proposed concert in Sydney next month.

Tourism Australia, the country's official tourism board, has been championing vaccinations to restart travel. The agency has been running a Get Vaccinated campaign, which encourages people to take the Covid-19 vaccine, alongside the hashtag #itsourbestshotfortravel.

Emirates and Etihad add more Australia flights

Emirates and Etihad are increasing flight capacity from the UAE to Australia as travel restrictions ease. Photo: Emirates

Airlines in the UAE fly to several destinations in Australia, and the country's two biggest carriers have plans to add more flights to the country following the easing of border restrictions.

Emirates flies to four Australian airports, including daily A380 flights to Melbourne and Sydney. It operates five weekly flights from Dubai to Brisbane and three weekly flights to Perth.

The airline has noted a rise in travel demand to the country.

“The uptake to Australia from the UAE and across our network has been strong, driven by pent-up demand as well as the easing of restrictions, making it easier to travel,” a representative for the Dubai airline told The National.

Emirates expects to add additional flights to Sydney as travel demand ramps up.

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, is also ramping up operations. The airline is increasing flights to daily services to Melbourne and Sydney from March 27, meaning it will operate 14 weekly flights between Abu Dhabi and Australia from next month.

Updated: February 14, 2022, 5:17 AM
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