International tourists will not be welcomed back to Australia until next year, with the return of skilled migrants and students given higher priority, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.
Australia was also expected to reach the vaccination benchmark on Tuesday at which the country could begin to open up: 80 per cent of the population aged 16 and older having a second shot.
Last week, Morrison outlined plans to allow vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas from November for the first time since an extraordinarily tough travel ban took effect in March last year.
But Morrison on Tuesday said that after Australians, the next priority would be skilled migrants and international students entering Australia before tourists.
Australian immigration has been at its lowest since World War II because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The pandemic has also had a disastrous effect on Australian universities that rely heavily on fees paid by international students. The education sector fears that students will enrol in other countries unless Australia opens its border to them soon.
“The next priorities are skilled migrants that are very important for the country and who are double vaccinated, as well as students who are coming and returning to Australia for their studies,” Morrison told Seven Network television. “We will get to international visitors as well, I believe next year.”
The Australian Tourism Export Council, which represents a sector that made A$45 billion (US$33 billion) a year from international tourists before the pandemic, wants international visitors to return by March.
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