States urged to ‘reopen by Christmas’ as borders cost $17bn

 

Domestic border closures have wiped $4.6 billion from major Sydney air routes as the nation continues to lose $319 million a day due to travel restrictions.

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 shutdown has resulted in $17 billion in aviation losses domestically and $61 billion internationally in the past seven months, new analysis by EY shows.

The research commissioned by the Business Council of Australia found passenger numbers between Sydney and Melbourne dropped 91 per cent, costing $3.1 billion, NSW also took a $1.2 billion hit for the route to Brisbane and $303 million for flights to Canberra since March.

The Sydney to Melbourne air route is considered one of the most lucrative in the world, but during COVID-19 passenger rates have dropped by 91 per cent. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian Gilles
The Sydney to Melbourne air route is considered one of the most lucrative in the world, but during COVID-19 passenger rates have dropped by 91 per cent. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian Gilles

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said she was calling on National Cabinet to announce a plan for domestic travel before December.

"Getting Australians flying again before Christmas would be a social and economic gift to the country, delivering an additional $3.3 billion," she said.

"The safety of Australians remains our number one priority but states like NSW have put robust systems in place to manage this virus, so people can safely and freely get on with their lives."

 

Ms Westacott said Australia's recovery would be "stronger and faster" if the government could agree to a national timetable and "transparent protocols" for removing domestic travel restrictions.

"We are not asking for a free for all - we need a highly-targeted, careful and gradual reopening of the economy based on health advice with robust nationally consistent systems in place for departures and arrivals, quarantining, local containment, and digital tracking and tracing," she said.

The EY analysis found international aviation delivered "enormous economic benefit" to the country that "cannot be replaced by other sectors".

"International students arriving by air support 240,000 jobs in the country and education exports are worth $40.3 billion," Ms Westacott said.

"On average, international visitors such as tourists, business travellers and short-term students spend about $5,200 per trip each in Australia.

"Chinese travellers about $9,300. By contrast, Australians holidaying at home spend about $700."

Qantas and Virgin have both laid off about 11,500 employees in the wake of the COVID crisis.

Unused planes have been parked at Alice Springs airport since the majority of international travel stopped. Picture: Brad Crouch
Unused planes have been parked at Alice Springs airport since the majority of international travel stopped. Picture: Brad Crouch

Ms Westacott said Australia "can't afford to be left behind" as international travel opportunities become available.

"Safe travel corridors with other low-risk countries who have also managed the virus well … would generate $20.5bn for Australia over a 12-month period," she said.

"We support National Cabinet adopting a strategy for increasing international travel based on a

strategy to gradually and safely re-open borders."

Originally published as States urged to 'reopen by Christmas' as borders cost $17bn


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