International Travel Won't Be Back to Normal Until 2023 Says Industry Expert

But, there are hopes domestic travel could pick up sooner.
Samantha Teague
May 14, 2020

While some interstate travel could be back on the cards for Australians by next month and trans-Tasman travel by July (according to the Federal Government's three-step plan for a COVIDSafe Australia), it looks like other international travel could still be a while off.

Australia and New Zealand's borders are currently closed and all international travel is banned, and Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has said he can't see this changing any time in the foreseeable future. Murphy told a Senate inquiry into COVID-19 as much yesterday,Wednesday, May 13: "I cannot see border measures materially changing for some time." Murphy also said that two-thirds of Australia's COVID-19 cases had been overseas-acquired and he had "no vision" of when strong borders could be relaxed.

An analysis released earlier this week by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association for the world's airlines, and Tourism Economics has an equally dire outlook — for international travel, not so much for domestic. According to the report, the best case scenario is that air travel will be back to normal (2019 levels) by 2023.

While it's expected international air travel will take four years to recover, the report predicts domestic travel will bounce back faster. "The impacts of the crisis on long-haul travel will be much more severe and of a longer duration than what is expected in domestic markets," said IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac in the report.

The average length of flights will drop — as shown by the below graph — as people preference exploring their own backyard, over international jaunts.

So, while European adventures and could still be a while off, exploring Australia could be a possibility in the not-so-distant future.

Many states and territories have closed borders at the moment, though — including Queensland, Tasmania, WA, SA and NT — and regional travel is still off-limits, but we'll let you know when that changes.

For more information about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and what travel is and isn't allowed, head to the Department of Health's website. Domestic travel is now allowed in New Zealand — read more about COVID-19 Alert Level 2 here.

Published on May 14, 2020 by Samantha Teague
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