Interview with James Valentine, ABC Sydney Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: Reopening of Australia's border to international tourists
21 February 2022

James Valentine: Dan Tehan is the Minister for Trade and Tourism. He's out at Sydney Airport. So, Dan, I'm just imagining you with a couple of helium balloons and a stuffed kangaroo. Is that you at the moment?

Dan Tehan: Yeah, that's me, James. I've got the Welcome Back T-shirt on. The surf lifesavers are here. Tourism Australia have got all of their officials out here with their T-shirts on. There's little kangaroos and wallabies. And I've got to say, there is a sense of excitement like I haven't seen for quite some time. Everyone is just caught up in the moment. Because it's just such wonderful news that, you know, we've been through a tough two years. This is so positive. All the journalists are out here saying isn't it wonderful to be covering something which is such a good news story.

James Valentine: Yeah.

Dan Tehan: So, there's a real, real buzz out here. It's wonderful.

James Valentine: Did you make a sign? I just want to see you holding a sign, Welcome Back, Grandma, you know. Hello Tourism Industry.

Dan Tehan: Yes – no, well, look, I haven't made the sign, but there are signs here saying Welcome Back, which is – they're big blue signs written in white. And look, the next – the first plane is going to be in – I think we're expecting the passengers off in about 5 minutes. There are little jars of Vegemite, there's some Tim Tams. So, these people – and they're getting off a long-haul flight – I don't think they're going to know what's hit them when they see all the excitement.

James Valentine: No, in fact, I love the thought that somebody might be arriving for the very first time into Australia and they think this is normal, that we always do this.

Dan Tehan: That's right. They'll be thinking, "Gee, I'll be back if this is the way I'm welcomed."

James Valentine: It's amazing. I flew into Germany and they didn't offer me schnitzel as I arrived and strudel. Like, this is incredible.

Dan Tehan: It is, exactly.

James Valentine: I mean, it is exciting. It's fantastic, and it's great to hear that the first plane has touched down. There'll be people coming through, you know, the arrivals in a moment. It's great. But, you know, speaking of long haul, it's a long haul back to that $45 billion industry of 2019, isn't it?

Dan Tehan: It is. Look, it's been a really tough year for our tourism industry – or tough two years for our tourism industry. It's been a tough two years for the nation. And we will have to, you know, watch, and see what happens. But I'm confident that our tourism sector will rebound very strongly. We've got $40 million in marketing out in our key markets at the moment. Tourism Australia have done a wonderful job throughout the two years of the pandemic making sure that those markets are kept in place. And I think we're already seeing strong numbers out of North America; we're seeing strong numbers out of the UK. So, I'm pretty confident we're going to see a very strong rebound. And that's wonderful news for the 660,000 people who are employed in the market.

James Valentine: I feel like I'm hearing sort of a mixed message on that. I mean, you and other tourism people are saying there's strong numbers. Other tourism industry representatives are saying, "No, no, our research is saying they don't want to come." The US website still says don't travel to Australia.

Dan Tehan: Yeah, look, I've been fortunate enough to do some travel because of the job, and everywhere I go I just get overwhelmed by the demand that's still there for people to travel to Australia. I was in India 10 days ago signing an MOU with their tourism industry.
That was our fastest growing market leading into the pandemic and I can tell you that what they were tell me is the demand is there.

We know with New Zealand it's friends, family and relatives which drive the demand, and it's our second biggest market. Those friends, family and relatives haven't gone away. So as soon as New Zealand fully reopens, I'm sure those Kiwis will be back in huge numbers. So, I'm confident we're going to see a very, very strong rebound.

James Valentine: Yeah, yeah. China's not in, though. New Zealand's still closed. I mean, you know, like not wanting to rain on the parade, of course, but there is still some serious things to be negotiated and sorted?

Dan Tehan: Yeah, look, China's tough because of their zero Covid policy and so when they reopen, we're not quite sure. So that is tough. New Zealand, obviously we've already seen that they are opening. So, I think in the next two to three months we'll see a strong rebound there. But China's tougher because of the Covid policy. And we're very much dependent on when they make the decisions to change their current settings.

But, you know, India, our fastest growing market leading into the pandemic, I think the only way is up for that market. The UK traditionally is such a strong market. There's a strong demand there. The US, once they change some of their policy settings, we're already seeing very strong demand from there as well. So, I'm very confident we will see a very strong rebound.

James Valentine: Yeah. Look, in two years of dealing only with miserableness and talking to people about how bad their businesses are, let's just enjoy this moment when we've reached this. Let's hope that it continues, nothing comes to shut us down again and to – you know, it all rolls on from here. Dan, thanks so much for joining us.

Dan Tehan: It's been a pleasure. And if you want to drop in a bit later, the party will be continuing and there's Vegemite jars and Tim Tams for everyone.

James Valentine: Dan Tehan out there manning the Tim Tams stall for Australian tourism.


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