Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, Today

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

Allison Langdon: And Tourism Minister Dan Tehan is at Sydney International Airport. Minister, no doubt you are standing by with a jar of Vegemite to greet the tourists.

Dan Tehan: Yes, I've got my little koala bear, my Tim Tam and Vegemite, and the first passenger literally 30 seconds ago got off the first plane. What wonderful, wonderful news for our tourism industry and the 660,000 people employed in it. It's been a tough couple of years, but I can tell you, there is such a party atmosphere out here at the airport. There's excitement everywhere. People are loving it – absolutely loving it. And the first passenger had a huge smile on their face, even though they've been on the plane for – what – 20-odd hours. So it's wonderful. It's wonderful out here at the moment.

Karl Stefanovic: Gee, great energy, Minister, from you this morning. I mean, it's like it's been a long time coming or something, hey?

Dan Tehan: It has been a long time coming – two years we've been waiting – or over two years we've been waiting for this day. And, look, it has been tough for the sector but, gee, they're resilient and our wonderful, wonderful experience and locations haven't gone away. The warmth of the welcome that the Australian people give our overseas visitors hasn't gone away. You can see it out here. I mean, I was out here at a little after 6 o'clock this morning. There are people who'd been setting up at 5.30, huge smiles on their face. It's a party. It's a party and I think it will be going on for a couple of hours. Even the journalists who are out here who got up early, all big smiles on their face saying, "Isn't it great to be reporting a wonderful, wonderful, good news story." And that's the feel out here.

Allison Langdon: And just considering the amount of enthusiasm that is there this morning, Minister, I almost don't want to ask this, because we've got tourism bosses saying it's going to be sort of three to five years before things bounce back. What are you looking at there?

Dan Tehan: Look, I think there'll be a strong, strong rebound. Obviously there's still some challenges with the Chinese market. They've got their zero Covid policy, but I was in India signing an MOU 10 days ago, that was our fastest growing market leading into the pandemic. You look at New Zealand – visiting friends, family and relatives is the big thing that drives New Zealand tourism. Well, the friends, family and relatives haven't gone away. So as soon as they reopen fully, I think all those New Zealanders will be back in huge numbers. We've got 1.2 million visa holders eligible to come here at the moment. We've seen a couple of hundred thousand people already come the last couple of months.

So I think there'll be a very, very strong rebound, and everything that I'm seeing is people do want to travel. And we get that confidence back into them to travel and I think we will see that very, very strong rebound.

Karl Stefanovic: Looks like you've got arrivals behind you. And I can – I can't imagine anything better than getting off a 14-hour flight and being inundated by cameras and your good self holding a koala bear and a bottle of Vegemite!

Dan Tehan: We were laughing about that before. It would be the last thing you'd want. You'd just want to get to the hotel, have a shower and all of a sudden there's just this huge delight on people's faces as you get off a plane.

Karl Stefanovic: No, it's a good thing.

Dan Tehan: Anyway, I'm sure they'll understand the significance of it.

Karl Stefanovic: Well, it's good to have you there. It's been a tough haul and you've done a great job navigating us through this. Well done to you mate, and we'll talk to you very soon.

Allison Langdon: Thanks, Dan.


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