Australia and international travel: 12 bits of positive news

I get it. It's doom and gloom out there. Even if you're not locked down right now the world of travel isn't exactly filled with positivity. Many state borders remain shut in Australia; the outward international travel ban is still in place. Will this ever end?

And yet, there's good news if you want to find it. Small improvements are being made. Dramatic changes are in the works. And the signs are there that one day, maybe even sooner than you think, we'll be able to indulge this passion once again.

If you're craving a little positivity, here are 12 pieces of good news to focus on.

Australians are getting vaccinated, fast

Australia as a nation has historically had a very high rate of vaccine up-take, and it's no different for the various COVID-19 jabs. After an – ahem – enforced slow start, we find ourselves well along the pathway to a level of immunity that will hopefully make lockdowns and border closures a thing of the past, and travel a thing of the present. Right now, more than 47 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 are double-vaccinated. In NSW it's almost 55 per cent. In ACT it's even higher. We're doing this.

Vaccines work, and will open travel doors

You can pick and choose your country and your age groups to paint a picture of our global battle against COVID-19 as either rosy or rock-bottom, but the truth is that the vaccines available in Australia have been proven to be very effective at staving off serious illness and COVID-19-related death. Getting jabbed will make you safer. And, it will open doors to the world, with many of our favourite destinations – including Italy, France, Singapore, Thailand and Canada – making life much, much easier for vaccinated arrivals.

Travel restrictions are already easing

We have picnics! Which once didn't seem much, but these days is the greatest thing in the world. Lockdown restrictions are already easing in NSW and Victoria, and will continue to do so over the next few weeks and months. In NSW, intrastate travel is due to resume when the 16+ population hits 70 per cent double-vaccinated, which could happen in just two weeks.

Home quarantine trials have begun

Hallelujah! The most obvious step towards a travel-filled future is finally happening in Australia. The South Australian government has begun a home-quarantine trial with interstate travellers, and has recently included overseas arrivals. Benevolent Victoria has allowed some residents stuck north of the Murray to return home to quarantine. And NSW, which is already allowing some Paralympic athletes to do home quarantine, has announced a seven-day trial for 175 overseas arrivals to home-quarantine from next month. Baby steps.

International flights from Australia have been announced

Though you have to take these announcements with a grain of salt – how many times has Qantas declared the return of international travel now? – there's still reason to hope that this time, it's for real. Last week, Qantas announced the resumption of several major international routes, including to London, LA and Tokyo, beginning December 18. At the same time, Air Canada announced the resumption of its Sydney to Vancouver flights from December 17. A reminder: Australia's outbound travel ban is due to expire on December 17. Fingers crossed.

Overtourism is being addressed

FILE-- A cruise ship passes by St. Mark's Square filled with tourists, in Venice, Italy, Sunday, June 2, 2019. Declaring Venice's waterways a “national monument,” Italy is banning mammoth cruise liners from sailing into the lagoon city, which risked within days being declared an imperiled world heritage site by the United Nations. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the ban will take effect on Aug. 1 and was urgently adopted at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. . (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Venice has banned large cruise ships from its main ports. Photo: AP

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Travel was broken, in some ways, before it ground to a halt. Overtourism was rife, and it was doing lasting social and environmental damage. However, the global pause in tourism has allowed some destinations to reset, and introduce rules to limit future damage. Venice, for instance, has banned large cruise ships from its main city ports, and introduced a per-day visitor cap and tourist tax. Amsterdam has placed restrictions on short-term rentals. Barcelona has introduced an app to allow visitors to avoid crowded attractions. And in New Zealand's Milford Sound, plans have been tabled to ban cruise ships from the inner sound, and tax overseas visitors.

Responsible tourism is being planned

The big travel pause has also allowed tourism operators and even entire countries to consider how we can do this thing more responsibly and ethically post-pandemic. Tour company Intrepid Travel, for instance, has introduced 42 new low-carbon tours, while also joining the push for global vaccine equity. Iceland, meanwhile, has become one of the first countries to introduce a pledge for tourists, in the hope of educating visitors to treat the island more respectfully.

Sustainable jet fuel flight is on the rise

Supplied PR image for Traveller. Check for re-use. September 15, 2021 – The British Airways BA1476 from London Heathrow to Glasgow Airportbecame the airline’s first ever passenger flight to be powered directly by sustainable aviation fuel(SAF), with the remaining emissions produced by the flight offset. The airline teamed up withHeathrow, air traffic service provider NATS, fuel giant bp, Glasgow Airport and Airbus to operate theshort carbon neutral flight, which departed Heathrow at 10.36 on Tuesday 14 September 2021 andarrived in Glasgow at 11.28 local time.The short journey on the airline’s new special liveried sustainability aircraft painted in partnership withAirbus replicated a flight British Airways operated to Edinburgh in 2010. At the time, neither offsettingnor sustainable aviation fuel were available to reduce the flight’s impact on the environment, and thejourney was operated on an older aircraft carrying fewer passengers.

British Airways has completed a flight using sustainable fuel. 

The truly inconvenient truth for travellers is that air travel is terrible for the environment, terrible for the world. However, things could slowly be changing. Last week, British Airways operated its first-ever passenger service partially powered by sustainable aviation fuel. The London to Glasgow flight produced 62 per cent fewer carbon emissions than a similar journey would have 10 years ago. The fuel is made partly from recycled cooking oil, which makes you feel a lot better about that trip to Maccas at the airport. Other airlines, including Qantas, Air France and Virgin Atlantic have done similar flights in the past and the technology continues to improve.

International tourism is happening

It's on. Though it doesn't feel like it here in Australia, the world is open and international travel has already resumed. Europe is open for business, with travellers from within the EU, as well as North America, enjoying the last of summer in the likes of Italy, France, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Canada has begun accepting vaccinated international arrivals. The USA is about to open up. Many Caribbean islands are open. Travel has resumed to the Thai islands and the Maldives. Some countries in Africa and South America are allowing arrivals. Once we can travel again, there will be options.

COVID-safe processes are in place

A waitress checks clients' health passes at a restaurant in Paris, Monday Aug.9, 2021. People in France are now required to show a QR code proving they have a special virus pass to enjoy restaurants and cafes or travel across the country. The measure is part of a government plan to encourage more people to get the vaccine and to slow down a surge in infections, as the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for most cases in France.(AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant)

A waitress checks guests' health passes at a restaurant in Paris. Photo: AP

For those understandably nervous about heading to a foreign country during a pandemic, it's nice to see that plenty of those countries open for tourism have COVID-safe practices in place. Italy has its Green Pass, France has the Pass Sanitaire, and others have similar systems designed to ensure that only the double-vaccinated are able to enjoy experiences such as visiting museums and eating in restaurants. Expect the likes of Japan, South Korea and Singapore to follow suit once tourism is restarted.

Insurance is available

This will be a make-or-break requirement for plenty of Australians hoping to head overseas: can you get insurance that will cover you for COVID-19? The short answer is yes. Emirates and Etihad are already both offering insurance for medical expenses and emergency evacuation due to COVID-19 when you book tickets with the airline. Insurer AIG is also offering policies that cover for COVID-19-related illness, though they're not available to Australians yet. Our options are likely to increase as countries are taken off the "Do Not Travel" list.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

This isn't so much news as truth: when we finally get back out there travelling again, after all this time, we are going to absolutely love the living crap out of the whole experience. Everything will seem amazing. Long-haul flights, overpriced coffee, endless security lines. Bring. It. On.

What do you see as the good news for travellers right now? How do you feel about the resumption of international travel? Or just interstate travel? Where do you plan to go first?

Email: b.groundwater@traveller.com.au

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