Australia could open to German tourists ‘by Christmas’, says minister

The Sydney Opera House in Australia
The Sydney Opera House in Australia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AAP | Dan Himbrechts
Australia could open its international borders and welcome German holidaymakers by the end of the year, according to Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan.

Australia currently has a blanket ban on international tourists travelling into the country in order to stem the spread of Covid-19, though this could change in the next few months if the country continues to make rapid progress with its vaccination campaign. 

“Of course our priority is to bring Australians home,” Tehan told Sky News Australia on Monday. “But in my opinion, before Christmas, we can start letting everyone else – including international tourists – in as well.”

But he said that would require at least 80 percent of the population over the age of 16 to be fully vaccinated against Covid. As of October 15th, about 68 percent of the adult population in Australia had been given their full course of jabs, while nearly 85 percent had received at least one vaccine dose. 

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Tehan’s comments come less than a week after the regional premier of the state of New South Wales – where Sydney is located – announced plans to reopen the region’s international borders from Novevember 1st. The 14-day hotel quarantine would then fall away for fully vaccinated people, said Dominic Perrottet.

In New South Wales, more than 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

However, Australian government leader Scott Morrison clarified a few hours later that the new rules would initially apply only to Australian citizens and people residing in Australia. The opening up of the country for international tourists would be more gradual, he said.

Travel ban

Around a year and a half ago, government officials closed the country’s borders and sealed off Australia from the rest of the world.

Since then, many Australians have been unable to travel home because the cost of flights and quarantine has been extremely high and permits have been difficult to obtain.

At the time of writing, round-trips from Berlin to Sydney in December and January cost upwards of €1,300 (or upwards of €1,500 if travelling from Munich). In addition, travellers arriving in Australia must pay for a PCR test before travel and complete 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine. 

According to Germany’s Federal Office of Statistics, around 17,500 Australian nationals were living in Germany at the start of 2021 – though this number pales in comparison to the number of Germans who flock to Australia every year.

In non-pandemic times, Australia has been one of Germany’s favourite travel destinations: around 190,000 residents of Germany travel to the country each year, either for tourist purposes or on ‘working holiday’ visas during a gap year.

On the other side of the coin, Australia’s roughly 25 million residents have been largely stuck in the country over the past 18 months.

However, Germany currently allows unrestricted entry for people from Australia, so if the travel ban is lifted in December, people living down under will be able to visit the Bundesrepublik once again.

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