Regional borders could open for winter holidays
Regional travel bans are likely to be relaxed in time for the winter school holidays, paving the way for a reboot of the South West tourism sector.
But Mark McGowan has rebuffed calls by Prime Minister Scott Morrison for interstate travel to resume by the end of the school term.
The Premier confirmed WA’s hard border closure — which prohibits travel into the State without police approval — would be one of the last restrictions lifted.
The tourism industry, which lost $3.1 billion when six months worth of bookings were cancelled, wants the regional travel ban relaxed before WA’s border opens.
With school holidays starting on July 4, it is hoped West Australians who would normally book a winter escape to Bali or Queensland would instead holiday in WA.
The Times understands a pending roadmap on the rollback of restrictions would include a staggered approach to allowing travel between regions.
Some boundaries would collapse sooner, for example between Perth and the South West or Wheatbelt, to allow self-drive holidays and separated families to be reunited.
The Kimberley, including Broome, a popular winter holiday destination, was expected to remain closed to non-essential travel to protect the Aboriginal communities.
Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall said non-essential travel within regions — for example, from Perth to Mandurah for a weekend break — should be permitted when restaurants reopen to dine-in patrons.
He hoped the roadmap included tentative dates for the removal of regional boundaries so businesses could start accepting bookings.
“People want to plan ahead and we want to be able to take bookings, but if at the last moment the region can’t be opened up because of health advice, then we will be very flexible with postponing or refunding the booking,” Mr Hall said.
On Tuesday, the PM said he was keen for domestic travel to resume by the end of term and joked there had been “friendly banter” in National Cabinet about whether New Zealanders would be welcomed into WA before those from the east coast.
“Our primary focus is the health and safety of Western Australians. That will always be my number-one priority as we get our economy going again,” Mr McGowan said.
“We are taking steps to get our WA economy into a COVID safe mode. That means relaxing a number of restrictions.
“But we won’t compromise our hard border. It will be one of the last elements of our restrictions that will be lifted.”
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said she was anticipating an announcement by the Premier today about the staged opening of WA businesses and regional borders.
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