Hugs and tears filled Perth Airport on Thursday as families and friends reunited after being separated for nearly two years owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Western Australia has reopened to travellers, without quarantine, for the first time in about 700 days. The move marks the first time that Australia has been fully open to visitors since the onset of the global pandemic.
At midnight on Thursday, the country's largest state eased its Covid-19 travel restrictions.
On hand to celebrate the return of travel were representatives from Tourism Western Australia who handed out A$500,000 ($363,937) worth of travel vouchers to passengers to spend on experiences and activities across the state.
Toy quokkas — a little marsupial that is unique to the region — were also given to travellers arriving on the first flights from Sydney and Melbourne, and a giant quokka was part of the welcoming committee.
One of Qantas' Boeing Dreamliners is named after the tiny creature, which has often been called the world’s happiest animal.
A new government-funded A$12 million ($8.5m) marketing campaign called Wander out Yonder was also unveiled on Thursday.
Highlighting stunning coastlines, premium food, exceptional art and culture, and ancient Aboriginal history, it is designed to encourage holidaymakers to travel around the state.
Strict Covid-19 restrictions remain in place
Vaccinated travellers are welcome in Western Australia so long as they have a registered good to go (G2G) Pass and a negative Covid-19 test result. All passengers need to take a rapid antigen test within 12 hours of arrival.
Tourists arriving in Western Australia will need to follow strict Covid-19 measures that include mandatory face masks for everyone over the age of 7 and a capacity of 10 at indoor gatherings.
Famed for its beaches and scenery, the state is set to welcome more than 23,000 travellers this week on flights operated by the Qantas Group.
The reopening follows a false start last month, when authorities reversed a decision to fully open its borders to everyone except those with exemptions.
Perth — the city that enjoys more hours of sunshine than any other capital in Australia — is expecting about 8,000 visitors to arrive on 22 domestic and five international flights on Thursday.
Qantas alone will operate 31 flights across Western Australia. The airline has been increasing its schedule to add more to the state in time for its reopening, including from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns, Gold Coast, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin.
Other travellers are set to land in the state from overseas with scheduled flights from Dubai, Singapore, Doha, Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring Auckland.