The Tourist Echo: Australia’s borders are closed and could remain so for a long time. What information do you have about this?
Eva Seller: Currently, there is no fixed date yet for the reopening of the borders. The protection of the population is the absolute priority of the government, it keeps repeating it. The vaccination campaign started in February. Unfortunately, like in many European countries, it started very slowly. It will still take time to achieve herd immunity. However, even if it was announced in many media that the reopening was postponed to July 2022, it could happen before. This deadline is the one that the government used as the basis for establishing its budget, because the financial year in Australia begins in July. This reopening hypothesis serves above all as a basis for the government’s budget calculation. But if conditions allow, the reopening could happen sooner. The authorities are observing how it is going in the rest of the world, vaccination campaigns, reopening strategies… to open as soon as possible. We feel a real desire of travelers to come to Australia. If the pros had a confirmed reopening date, it sure would make their lives easier! But it still takes a little patience.
Precisely, how did you keep the link with travel professionals, in this very special period?
Eva Seller: The French professionals were great. Our trade show, ATE (Australia Tourism Exchange) just ended yesterday afternoon. We had more French tour operators than usual. They have shown us more than ever their passion, their loyalty, their desire to work on the destination, it touches me personally. Throughout the year, we multiplied the training courses for travel agents, they met with great success, the number of Aussie Specialists increased. We have also set up webinars, a web series “On the road in Aus”… We have maintained links with the press and the general public. If you can’t go to Australia for the moment, nothing prevents you from dreaming and preparing for your next trip… “Virtual” events have allowed us to stay in touch with our various targets. It is a tool that we will continue to use in the future. But there will also be “physical” events, of course, including the “Food Temple Australia” in September, at the Carreau du Temple. It will be an opportunity to discover all the flavors of Australian gastronomy, with a farmers’ market, a Sunday brunch… Many events will be organized as part of “Australia now”. Organized each year in a different country or region of the world, “Australia now” takes place this year in France, from June 2021 to June 2022*.
What is the situation in Australia? How are professionals going through this crisis on the spot?
Eva Seller: To compensate for the absence of international tourists, domestic tourism has been developed. Usually, the government mandates us to promote Australia internationally, in this context, we have been commissioned to promote Australia to Australians. Because if travelers cannot go to Australia, conversely, Australians do not have the possibility of traveling outside their country either, or almost. So there was a “Holiday Here This Year” campaign to encourage Australians to rediscover their country. It worked very well, even if it’s complicated in the big cities. People have rather wanted to go to the countryside and the big cities are also suffering from the absence of business tourism. But I think the tourism business will survive, I’m confident.
And you, as a tourism professional, how did you go through this year which will remain etched in our memories?
Eva Seller: The pandemic came just after the fires, which were also a test. It was really terrible to see the fauna and flora destroyed and it touched me a lot, also because I know a lot of people there. I had tears in my eyes. The pleasant surprise is that the flora recovered very quickly because certain varieties grow back quickly, and that makes me very happy. Then, when the health crisis broke out, I first thought that it was not possible to promote a country whose borders were closed and I thought I was only there for my teams and our professional partners. But in the end, there were very positive reactions of support from the general public on our various actions, and also from professionals, and that gave me a lot of hope. I was also very impressed by the adaptability of people, and in particular of our teams. It’s been a different year, that’s for sure, but there are a lot of very positive things to come out of it.
*As part of Australia Now, more than 100 events (exhibitions, shows, concerts, conferences, films, entrepreneurship, sport, etc.) will take place throughout France around the art of living, travel, sport, gastronomy or even Australian-style innovation.
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