Trying to ensure travellers in Australia are vaccinated against COVID-19 will hinder the sector in the short term, but is inevitable in the long term, a tourism expert says.
- WA and Qld already have vaccine requirements for high-risk areas
- Tasmania’s tourism council wants all travellers vaccinated
- An expert says it’s likely it will become a requirement in all states
The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania wants its state government to consider a requirement that visitors to the state be fully vaccinated.
Curtin University tourism expert Dr Mingming Cheng said it was a likely path for all governments.
“This is probably the way all the governments will want to go forward,” he said.
“But in reality I think it’s a bit hard to implement.
“If you require people to have vaccinations to go to particular destinations, we need to think through the actual market.
“If they required a vaccine to come to Tasmania, it may not see big numbers of tourists coming to Tasmania.”
The proposal was made as operators across Australia warned of massive losses due to potential disruption to the September school holidays, caused by ongoing COVID outbreaks and lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and ACT.
Tourism and Transport Forum Australia has predicted the cost to industry would be about $4 billion.
No short-term gain, expert says
Dr Cheng said a mandatory vaccination rule would be unlikely to benefit the sector in the short term.
“The people who take the vaccination now are actually not the young people,” he said.
“Young people are the ones who travel a lot.
“In the short term, I’m not sure it’s the best way forward.”
Dr Cheng said it was uncertain what would be required of international travellers.
Vaccine passports ‘not a single solution’
The Tasmanian Government is not enthusiastic about calls from the Tourism Industry Council to require visitors to the state are vaccinated.
“The people who really matter about getting vaccinated are the people inside Tasmania,” Tasmanian Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch said.
“Vaccine passports are an interesting concept, but they’re not a simple or single solution at all.”
Dr Veitch said while a vaccinated person has a lower risk of serious illness or death, they can still transmit COVID.
“A person who’s had the vaccine who crosses the border or participates in an activity may still pose a risk, so we shouldn’t put all our eggs in the vaccination basket.”
Some states more reliant on interstate travel than others
He said the situation in places like Western Australia — which currently requires travellers from NSW to have had at least one jab — was different because the majority of travellers in WA had traditionally been intrastate as opposed to interstate, or international.
“In WA we actually have more people who can travel within the state but Tasmania, they depend more on the interstate travellers and international travellers,” he said.
“So they don’t really have what we call a bubble where enough people travel inside to make tourism survive.”
About 91 per cent of travellers in WA before COVID were from within the state, and this had grown to 98 per cent since the pandemic began.
Only 2 per cent of travellers to Western Australia were from other states, shrinking from 5 per cent before COVID.
While international tourists were a smaller percentage, they spent a lot more than Australians, Dr Cheng said.