Djokovic drama has turned tourists away from Australia, says Adelaide Airport MD – Australian Aviation

Australian authorities’ treatment of Novak Djokovic earlier this year has deterred tourists from visiting the country, Adelaide Airport chief executive said.

Speaking on the Australian Aviation podcast, Brenton Cox added that it is a “logical fear” for many potential visitors that once they arrive in the country they too could be arrested or deported.

Cox highlighted the incident, along with elements of Australia’s response to the pandemic, as damaging to the international aviation industry recovery.

“What we’ve seen is that it’s the Aussies that come out and see the world – but people don’t come here,” he told host Adam Thorn.

“I just remember watching the scenes when Djokovic was booted out of the Australian Open. And in that moment you said, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of eyeballs.’

“And there are a lot of people who, like the state line threat, have been like, ‘Well, if I come to this country, am I going to be trapped? Or will I be stuck in a remand prison?’

“Right now, most people are probably coming from overseas to visit friends and relatives or to do important business. The great free, independent travelers aren’t quite there yet.”

Novak Djokovic was ordered by a court last year to leave the country because he would not confirm his vaccination status for the Australia Open.

However, the incident was controversial because he was initially granted a visa before being taken into immigration detention and deported after a legal battle that made headlines around the world.

Australia’s vaccination mandate was later lifted and last week the new German immigration minister ruled that the former world No. 1 would be allowed to compete in next year’s Grand Slam.

Then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in January the decision to expel Djokovic kept “Australians safe”, but former Deputy Secretary of Immigration Abul Rizvi called his treatment “stuff”.

Cox’s appearance on the podcast comes after he delivered a keynote speech at the Australian Airports Association Conference calling on the federal government to pass legislation to prevent states from closing their borders in the event of another pandemic.

“The last few years have led us to think that closing state borders is normal – it’s not normal,” he said.

“We all know aviation has been hit harder than most other industries globally thanks to border closures and travel restrictions, but most people thought our experience of Australian aviation was shared elsewhere – it wasn’t. We were unique in how fragmented we are.

“Even New Zealand, with its draconian policies, was far better off. New Zealand has no states. But it has also chosen not to cut off the North from the South Island, for example.

“Almost as many people flew between European countries as within Australia.

“Aviation has been smashed around the world, but no more than here. The fact that we are now operating at half the quality of service and capacity is something of a miracle.”

Recent industry-wide figures released by the Department for Transport suggest Australia’s international recovery is stalling, although domestic is recovering to near-normal levels.

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