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Australia is preparing to again put out the welcome mat for foreign tourists, welcome news for those with a stake in the tourist trade of a country that has largely been off limits to international travellers for just under two years.
The country will reopen to fully vaccinated travellers as of Feb. 21, although visitors who plan to travel extensively there may encounter coronavirus restrictions that vary from state to state.
Would-be visitors must undergo either an antigen test 24 hours before arrival or a PCR test 72 hours before setting foot in Australia.
“Australia has long been a popular destination for Canadian travellers,” said Chris Allison of Tourism Australia’s North America office, noting it hosted 190,000 Canadians in 2019.
“Tourism Australia is thrilled for the opportunity to welcome back visitors from Canada seeking out once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Allison added.
The announcement was also quickly applauded by Goway Travel, which has long been sending Canadians to Australia.
“The imminent reopening of Australian to vaccinated travellers is wonderful news; it has been a long road back since Australia shut its borders on March 2020. Any access since then has been limited and restricted,” said Goway’s Anthony Saba.
Saba is predicting that pent-up demand will lead to a quick resumption in visits to a country that Canadians haven’t been able to vacation in for nearly two years.
Saba said those who oversee Goway’s Australia program haven’t been idle, continuing to offer the South Pacific nation, primarily assisting customers with advance bookings and rebookings “with an eye to an eventual reopening. That day is here.”
Saba added that the travel landscape in Australia has evolved, with border closures leading to Australians travelling domestically in large numbers, and some in Australian tourism taking the opportunity to renovate or enhance offerings. “They are now ready eager to welcome the world back.”
However, some attractions closed during the pandemic and some other tourism firms are struggling to find staff.
Saba said Goway’s having a Sydney office gives it a “tremendous advantage ” over its competitors, adding Goway’s supplier partners are ready to host tourists and its Toronto-based destination specialists can now help with bookings.
“Here in North America we (Goway) took the time to reimage our itineraries and spruce up our best sellers, and created some new ones knowing that trends have changed and evolved. New focus has been given to small group touring, which offers a more personal touch while still enjoying the security and expertise of a guided group. Small group touring allows travellers to have access to unique local experiences. Private guided itineraries to allow clients to customize an itinerary and focus on what interest they have and the flexibility to allow to exclusive experiences.”
Goway doesn’t plan to offer incentives for its Australia program. “We think the desire to go Downunder will cover the need to offer incentives. We think Australia has kept its attractiveness as being desirable and safe,” Saba said.
Saba said Goway has particularly strong ties with Australia.
“Australia is more important to Goway than competitors as we have on-the-ground mouths to feed,” he says. “Australia is part of our roots and will always be an identifiable culture in our company. Besides we believe we are the leader in North America to Downunder and we are not going to forfeit that title even though we seriously cater to Globetrotters who travel the world.”
The company likes to state that it’s the only North American tour operator with an inbound office in Australia.
Itineraries and specials can be found on Goway.com https://www.goway.com/trips/dest/australia-and-south-pacific/cntry/australia/.
“We also have some great group itineraries for Australia from Goway’s Groups Only division,” Saba added. “Helping to make group travel easier to sell, we have created our exclusive group ‘Bubble’ itineraries with our trusted partners for small private groups to travel to our selection of exotic destinations in 2022 and beyond. To build your Goway Bubble all you need is a minimum of 10 travellers who want to explore fascinating destinations with the ease of movement and the comfort knowing their health and safety is paramount. Our Bubble itineraries are full of unique inclusions with lots of outdoor activities from walking tours to al fresco dining. Our goal is to have you linger longer and take the time to interact and explore Amazing Australia.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne-based Intrepid Travel has retooled its Australia program, with over half the tours featuring “meaningful First Nations experiences,” said the company’s Zina Bencheikh.
“Australia is home to the oldest continuing culture in the world. Our First Nations experiences give visitors an amazing opportunity to learn about cultural traditions that have been passed down through the generations for thousands of years.”
Those experiences feature Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders communities.
“It’s wonderful news that Australia will reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers later this month,” says Matt Berna, Intrepid Travel’s Managing Director, North America.
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