Letter from the Australian Chamber of Commerce HK - AU-HK Travel Corridor
The Hon Scott Morrison MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
20 May 2021
Dear Prime Minister,
Australia-Hong Kong Travel Corridor
Thank you for your letter dated 3 February 2021 regarding travel between Australia and Hong Kong.
We believe that the ongoing strong performance of both Australia and Hong Kong in managing the COVID-19 outbreak presents an opportunity to further consider an Australia – Hong Kong travel corridor.
We believe that a travel corridor would significantly aid business and government relations between our two jurisdictions, to better position both sides for recovery from the global pandemic.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong represents over one thousand individual members and 500 businesses within one of the largest international Australian communities. Over 100,000 Australians live in Hong Kong with 70,000 of them holding dual national status. Many of this community vote and pay taxes in Australia. Beyond this population are many potential investors, students, and tourists who would welcome the opportunity to visit Australia, as well as international talent considering a longer-term move.
Interest in Australia from Hong Kong remains strong. Taking action to make Australia accessible would help position Australia as a chosen destination for Hong Kong residents to continue to invest, study, visit or live, leveraging a position made possible by strong management of the onset of the pandemic and recovery to date. Conversely, inaction will see Australia disadvantaged, with interest diverted elsewhere. As I am sure you are aware, this has a consequential impact on many areas of the Australian domestic economy.
Importantly, at this time, is the opportunity for cultural exchange. As you know, education is a critical tool for diplomacy and we are very pleased to see the return of international students is now a stated priority for your Government. The decisions made now by students on where to complete a degree have long term ramifications for the development of mutual understanding and commerce. Tourism and migration can also play a role in fostering a positive cultural understanding, as well as appreciation for Australian made products.
Further, for offshore investment in Australia, there are limitations to virtual prospecting, relationship building and due diligence. The flow of people is required to strengthen and grow capital flows. Hong Kong remains the largest international asset management hub in Asia, as well as the largest private wealth management and hedge fund centre. It is second only to China as a centre for private equity.
We ask that you consider the impact that current travel restrictions have on the ability for business and cultural exchange to thrive, and the opportunities for Australia that a travel corridor would provide.
A Functioning Travel Corridor
As a major international hub for people and cargo, Hong Kong presents an important gateway from which to build controlled corridors as the world emerges from the pandemic.
The Hong Kong Government is now adopting a risk-based approach to quarantine measures, with further adjustment for travellers who have been fully vaccinated. Australia has been categorised as a low-risk destination. From 12th May this allows those arriving from Australia shortened hotel quarantine; reduced from 21 to 14 days and further to seven days with subsequent self-monitoring for fully vaccinated persons. The requirement for 21 days hotel quarantine remains in place for all travellers coming from very high risk places, while flights from extremely high risk places are banned.
We urge you to consider a similar adjustment to a risk based approach accounting for the traveller’s place of origin and whether or not they have been fully vaccinated. We are pleased to see that Qantas has successfully trialled the CommonPass COVID app and hope this will further encourage consideration of such an approach. Further, we urge you to consider Hong Kong as a low-risk destination with adoption of commensurate measures.
Hong Kong has maintained transparency of data and processes throughout the pandemic, adapting measures as experience with COVID-19 grew. When challenges have emerged, the Hong Kong Government has introduced swift and effective responses. This was well demonstrated with the most recent outbreak, brought quickly under control with stringent testing, contact tracing and government quarantine measures. Hong Kong also maintains strict controls around inbound travellers, including requirements for negative test results pre-flight, testing on arrival and mandatory hotel quarantine, as noted above up to 21 days. In addition, to restrict importation of variants, stringent flight suspension measures have been adopted. The net result is that COVID-19 has remained well contained, as depicted in the low (zero to single digits) daily local case load and very low incidence of mutant virus strains in the community. Testing and vaccines are readily available in Hong Kong and the Government has sufficient supplies to fully vaccinate the entire population this calendar year. Anyone aged 16 and over is now eligible to be vaccinated.
We understand that the Hong Kong Government has requested engagement with the Australian Government on a travel corridor. In assessing this request, we trust that you will consider the views of the Australian business community in Hong Kong and the views of Hong Kong business community who are ready to invest and engage with Australia. We also hope that you will appropriately recognise the city’s transparency and reliability of data, the extensive and effective public health measures in place and the resulting consistently low case load. Further, we hope that you will recognise vaccines and adjust quarantine requirements for those vaccinated travellers entering Australia. This will serve to ease the burden on quarantine facilities. We hope it will also serve to allow many Australians in Hong Kong who have been separated from their families, some through tragic circumstances and for the duration of the pandemic to get home. Finally, we would also hope a recalibration of quarantine requirements would serve to avoid any future decisions that prevented Australians from re-entering Australia, particularly in a time of crisis.
As ever, the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong stands ready to support you in these endeavours.
Australian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong
The Hon. Alan Tudge MP, Minister for Education and Youth
The Hon. Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care
The Hon. Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Home Affairs
Australian Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macau, Elizabeth Ward