Some ACT tourism operators will enjoy a subdued return to operating next month on the back of the NSW Government today announcing they will allow for interstate and intrastate recreational travel from 1 June.
While at no point has the ACT closed its borders, interstate travellers have only been able to access the Territory by flying due to NSW’s heavy restrictions on internal travel.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr today remarked that his government has “never said people were unwelcome”.
“We’ve certainly at various times only encouraged essential travel, but we’ve never closed our borders.”
NSW’s easing of restrictions will take effect on a Monday that is the Reconciliation Day public holiday in the ACT but not in NSW.
For that reason, the Chief Minister said “the immediate tourism opportunity for the ACT” will be over the following weekend, 6-8 June, which is the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
“Our discussions with tourism operators have focused on that being the most likely date that we would see more people wanting to come into the ACT,” Mr Barr said.
“Some have indicated they can respond effectively within a week; others have said they would need two, three or four weeks before they were ready.
“That varies across institutions as large as our national institutions to some of our smaller tourism operators.”
Mr Barr said the NSW Government’s decision does signal an important next step for the resumption of domestic tourism in Canberra.
“For a lot of those surrounding towns and communities, Canberra is the big city; it is the place that they would obviously come to for a range of services, so I would anticipate that picking up a little more once the NSW internal restrictions are eased on 1 June.”
Mr Barr said his Government’s own data shows two-thirds of Canberrans are comfortable with having people from outside the Canberra region come into the ACT.
“Some still hold concerns … the fact that this is still two to three weeks away should give those people some further comfort,” he said.
“The advice clearly will be to people in NSW not to travel if they feel unwell and there will be a range of protocols in place in hospitality, tourism and other venues, hotels and the like, in the ACT.”
NSW residents will also be able to take a holiday anywhere in NSW from 1 June.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said while regional NSW will welcome visitors with open arms, holidaymakers should call their planned accommodation venues and attractions to ensure they will be open and confirm their bookings before travelling.
“COVID could not have come at a worse time for regional NSW, with towns already doing it tough due to bushfires and drought and so I encourage everyone to make plans,” Mr Barilaro said.
Conversely, Mr Barr encouraged Canberrans to think about spending money locally before heading away.
“I’m not encouraging anyone to go, but people shouldn’t feel like they’re the worst person in the world if they want to go down to the coast or go for a holiday in NSW.
“There’s a lot of local businesses that could do with your support right now,” he said.
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