April 24, 2024


Built General Tough

“Australia’s reopening could happen earlier than July 2022”

While the borders are still closed, Australia has not cut ties with travelers and tourism professionals. The Tourist Echo interviewed Eva Seller, Europe director of Tourism Australia to find out how the destination is preparing for the recovery, as the “Australia now” event begins in France.

Eva Seller, Europe Director of Tourism Australia. © DR

Tourist Echo: Australia’s borders are closed and could remain so for a long time to come. What information do you have on this subject?

Eva Seller: Currently, there is not yet a fixed date for the reopening of the borders. Protecting the public is the government’s top priority, it keeps repeating. The vaccination campaign started in February. Unfortunately, like in many European countries, it started very slowly. It will take time to achieve collective immunity. However, even though it was announced in many media that the reopening was postponed until July 2022, it could happen before. This deadline is the one that served as the basis for the government to establish its budget, because the financial year in Australia begins in July. This reopening hypothesis serves above all as a basis for the budget calculation for the government. But if conditions allow, the reopening could happen sooner. The authorities are observing how things are going in the rest of the world, the vaccination campaigns, the reopening strategies… to open as soon as possible. We feel a real desire of travelers to come to Australia. If the pros had a confirmed reopening date, it sure would make their life easier! But it still takes a little patience.

Exactly, how did you keep in touch with travel professionals during this very special period?

Eva Seller: The French professionals were wonderful. Our fair, ATE (Australia Tourism Exchange) just ended yesterday afternoon. We had more French tour operators than usual. They have shown us more than ever their passion, their loyalty, their desire to work in the destination, it touches me personally. Throughout the year, we have increased the number of trainings for travel agents, they have been very successful, the number of Aussie Specialists has increased. We also set up webinars, a web series “On the road in Aus”… We maintained links with the press and the general public. If we can’t go to Australia for the moment, nothing prevents us from dreaming, and from preparing for our next trip… The “virtual” events have allowed us to stay in touch with our various targets. It is a tool that we will continue to use in the future. But there will also be “physical” events, of course, including “Food Temple Australia” in September, at Carreau du Temple. This will be an opportunity to discover all the flavors of Australian gastronomy, with a farmers’ market, a Sunday brunch… A great number of events will be organized as part of “Australia now”. Organized each year in a different country or region of the world, “Australia now” takes place this year in France, from June 2021 to June 2022 *.

What is the situation in Australia? How do professionals get through this crisis on the spot?

Eva Seller: To compensate for the absence of international tourists, domestic tourism has been developed. Usually the government mandates us to promote Australia internationally, in this context we have been commissioned to promote Australia to Australians. Because if travelers cannot go to Australia, conversely, Australians do not have the possibility of traveling outside their country, or almost. So there was a “Holiday Here This Year” campaign to encourage Australians to rediscover their country. It worked very well, even if it is complicated in the big cities. People rather wanted to go to the countryside and the big cities also suffer from the lack of business tourism. But I think the tourism business will survive, I’m confident.

And you, as a tourism professional, how did you go through this year which will be remembered?

Eva Seller: The pandemic came just after the fires, which were also a hardship. It was really terrible to see the flora and fauna destroyed and it touched me a lot, also because I know a lot of people there. I had tears in my eyes. The good surprise is that the flora recovered very quickly because some varieties grow back quickly, and that makes me very happy. Then, when the health crisis broke out, I first thought that it was not possible to promote a country whose borders were closed and I thought I was only there for my teams and our professional partners. But in the end, there were very positive reactions of support from the general public on our various actions, and also from professionals, and that gave me a lot of hope. I was also very impressed by the adaptability of the people, and in particular of our teams. It’s been a different year for sure, but a lot of very positive things come out of it.

* As part of Australia Now, more than 100 events (exhibitions, shows, concerts, conferences, films, entrepreneurship, sport …) will take place throughout France around the art of living, travel, sport, gastronomy or even Australian innovation.

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