Australia on Mondaywelcomed its first international tourists in almost two years after reopening its border which was shut in early 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Australia’s international border reopened to travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, marking an end to restrictions that were introduced to prevent the spread of the virus in March 2020, reports Xinhua news agency.
Fifty-six flights were due to land in Australia in the 24 hours after reopening.
Dan Tehan, the federal minister for trade, tourism and investment, was at the Sydney international airport on Monday morning to welcome the first arrivals and said it was a milestone for Australia.
“The first passengers had a huge smile on their face even though they have been on a plane for what, 20-odd hours,” he told Nine Network television.
“The warmth of the welcome that the Australian people give our overseas visitors hasn’t gone away.”
The return of double vaccinated international visitors will reinvigorate Australia’s tourism sector, which supports 660,000 jobs and contributed A$60.4 billion ($43 billion) to the economy in 2018-19, according to Tehan.
David Marshall, chair of the Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum, said it would take up to 18 months for the tourism industry to recover from the pandemic.
“We’re really playing catch-up,” he told The Canberra Times.
The country on Monday reported more than 15,000 new coronavirus infections and 17 deaths — seven in New South Wales, six in Queensland, three in Victoria and one in the Australian Capital Territory.
Monday marked one year since Australia administered its first coronavirus vaccines.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said that more than 53.2 million vaccines have now been administered in Australia.