Queensland holiday bookings are surging, but will international airlines stay away?
Queensland Christmas holiday bookings are on the rise with the state’s reopening road map revealed, but Brisbane Airport is worried the plan is too strict and could prompt international carriers to focus on other parts of Australia.
- Holiday booking inquiries have surged since Queensland’s road map was announced
- Flight bookings more than doubled after the announcement
- Brisbane Airport Corporation says the plan could prompt international carriers to avoid Queensland
Queensland will allow fully vaccinated people into Queensland without quarantining from December 17 — or when the state hits 80 per cent full vaccination of those aged over 16 — as long as they have had a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours.
Cairns reef tour operator Perry Jones said he was overjoyed to hear about the reopening plans.
“I was tap dancing up and down the hall,” he said.
“We wanted a road map, we needed a road map, and we got the road map … so that’s all we were asking for.”
He said the phones started ringing yesterday and bookings were already coming in.
“In the last 24 hours, we’ve started seeing a lot, which we haven’t seen for the greater part of the year.”
Tropical North Queensland Tourism CEO Mark Olsen said the surge in bookings was a result of renewed confidence for both the industry and travellers.
“What we heard yesterday provided confidence and confidence for our travellers to book their Christmas holidays and beyond,” he said.
After the announcement yesterday, Virgin Australia (VA) said flight bookings rose by 134 per cent.
“Already we can see travellers are excited by the prospects of flying again, which has been evident by the significant uplift in website traffic and bookings,” a VA spokesperson said.
Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner told ABC Radio Far North that about 1,000 bookings had been made in the past 24 hours, the majority of them being people travelling between Melbourne and the Gold Coast.
He said airlines would have “reasonable capacity” to service people pre-Christmas amid the increase in demand.
“It’s peak season … at the best of times, so it’s not always easy to get on a pre-Christmas flight,” he said.
Brisbane Airport ‘concerned’
But the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) said it was “deeply concerned” about the reopening strategy and worried that international airlines would not significantly boost flights into Queensland if it proved more convenient to focus on other Australian states.
“Under this plan, the 90 per cent vaccination rate milestone is the only opportunity for non-Australian citizens to enter Queensland directly from overseas,” BAC said in a statement.
“We are concerned that this threshold is significantly higher than the National Cabinet’s road map and other states’ road maps … Queensland will still be imposing either home or hotel quarantine, even after we meet the 80 per cent vaccinated population threshold.”
The national plan states that as the nation passes the 80 per cent double-dose mark, measures could be eased to allow “uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons without quarantine”.
BAC said Queensland will be competing with every other state for international visitors.
“If a fully vaccinated traveller from Melbourne can come to Queensland and not be required to quarantine once we have reached the 80 per cent vaccinated population milestone, a fully vaccinated person from Los Angeles should also be able to come to Queensland and not be required to quarantine,” BAC said.
It said losing flights into Queensland would be an “absolute tragedy” and would require years and “significant investment” to recover.
“This simply means Queensland will be uncompetitive from an aviation perspective and will kill demand for visitation.”
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the state government is taking a “sensible” and “cautious” approach to reopening.
“I understand there are some segments of the economy that would like us to move faster, that will criticise this plan, but at the end of the day, we’ve made decisions based on what’s in the best interests of Queenslanders’ health and safety and our economy,” he said.
BAC said it needs clarification on how a hotspot is defined once communities are 80 per cent double dosed.
“This clarity is essential if we are to understand how and when vaccinated interstate travellers will be able to return to Queensland without having to quarantine,” the BAC statement said.
“Furthermore, pre-arrival testing, and the additional costs associated for travellers, will significantly dampen demand as has been demonstrated in overseas markets that have already opened up.”
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