Gold Coast Airport passenger numbers have fallen to about 10 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels this week, and can be expected to drop further if lockdowns extend.
The airport was operating at more than 80 per cent of pre-COVID-19 capacity in May before domestic border restrictions once again began to take effect.
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said closure to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide had all but stopped traffic on the airport’s busiest routes, highlighting the fragility of the region’s tourism recovery.
“Gold Coast Airport was on track to reach 100 per cent of pre-COVID-19 capacity this month but that milestone will now be out of reach for some time,” he said.
“We know the lack of passengers flows on to the thousands of tourism businesses in the city that were counting on a busy July holiday period.
“The numbers we are seeing now are reminiscent of last year, but this time businesses no longer have the support of JobKeeper.
“Tourism and aviation needs a clear plan to keep domestic borders open, and strong support to restart activity. At the moment, when the current lockdowns end and borders reopen, there is still no certainty that they will stay open.”
Mr Mills said clear vaccination timelines and targets should point to when state border closures and lockdowns would no longer be required.
“We were pleased to see the Federal Government’s four-step plan to transition Australia's COVID-19 response and what the industry needs now is some firm targets around these phases,” he said.
“It is important for everyone to know what level of vaccination needs to be reached for us to move to the post vaccination phase.
“It is critical that we address our vaccine supply challenges, and state and federal governments must continue to work closely together on fast tracking this process.”
Mr Mills said government support would continue to be necessary to give Australians an incentive to travel again.
“Too many people don’t want to travel – they have been locked out of their state, and lost money from cancelled travel plans. The half-price airfare scheme was instrumental in stimulating tourism recovery earlier this year and a similar incentive would help accelerate activity again when the time comes.”
About two million people travelled through Gold Coast Airport in FY21, which is down from more than 4.8 million in FY20 and the lowest number since FY03.