Although almost half of Australians are keen to travel overseas, figuring out where you can and can’t go is proving to be a major barrier.
A new survey from airfare aggregator Skyscanner found that 44 per cent of adults want to go overseas in the next 12 months, but 70 per cent feel discouraged by the confusing and ever-changing restrictions around the world.
Experts say this hesitancy is justified.
“A month ago, we thought it was becoming more safe to travel because I think a lot of people in Australia looked to, say, Europe because people have history or family there, in particular,” University of Sydney epidemiologist Professor Alexandra Martiniuk told The New Daily.
“But, as Europe’s going back into another wave, I think people’s views of travel might be changing again, back to a bit of a more cautious approach.”
Professor Martiniuk said these logistical issues are fast becoming as important as health considerations for many Aussies looking to travel.
“Anything is possible in COVID,” she said.
“Things change rapidly, and decisions are made rapidly, so it’s something people do need to consider.
“There are quite a few countries that have said they will not do that, they do not want to do that, but then again countries have also said they would never enter lockdown again, and yet they are.”
However, Professor Martiniuk stressed that people can’t hold off travel forever, and that Australians need to learn to live with COVID.
The situation has suddenly put travel agents back on the agenda for many prospective tourists.
“Travel expertise to navigate the complexities of COVID travel is needed now more than ever and as events and tourism begin to ramp up again, travel agents will be essential,” Dean Long, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, said in October.
“Our members are easy to find and everywhere from online to on the high street and proud to be using our travel expertise to support Australians through COVID travel and beyond.”
Where to go
Professor Martiniuk cited New Zealand as an ideal destination where the COVID situation is relatively safe and Australian tourists are expected to be welcome soon.
Other nearby destinations such as Fiji are also worth considering.
“The Pacific islands have very low COVID numbers, but they have very fragile health systems,” Professor Martiniuk added.
One country that has recently reopened to Australian travellers is Singapore, which has a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) whereby fully vaccinated Australians can enter the country without quarantining.
However, Singapore is emerging from its own domestic restrictions after a recent spike in COVID cases.
While some destinations such as Hong Kong and mainland China are managing to keep case numbers low, they also have a hard border to tourists, which means they’re off the cards as potential holiday destinations.
Professor Martiniuk previously said that for large countries such as the US, it’s worth looking at the situation at a more local level since vaccine coverage can vary greatly between states.
Consumer group Choice recently found that a guaranteed right to a refund and clearer terms and conditions would make most Australians more confident to book a trip.
Policies such as these would help travellers hedge against sudden border closures or other unforeseen disruptions.
Meanwhile, most travel insurance policies don’t cover the cost of extra accommodation or rebooking fees in the event of government-imposed travel restrictions.
With the health argument becoming a less significant deterrent for travel, solving these remaining logistical and financial issues will be the key for Australians to reconnect with the rest of the world.
“I wouldn’t want to hold life back and never travel because of those concerns,” Professor Martiniuk said.
“I think now, the phase of the pandemic we’re in is a longer haul, and people need to live a life, also.”