Despite Australia's borders being closed to international visitors for 703 days, there won't be a "huge influx" of visitors once borders re-open, an industry expert says.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) chief Felicia Mariani said while thrilled with the news, it would be a slow and steady return.
"We do need to be realistic here," she said. "International tourism isn't like domestic tourism. The tap does not suddenly turn on now that the borders have opened.
"There's not going to be this massive, huge influx of international visitors all of a sudden, because we all know to make an international trip it takes planning."
She said it was critical for a full recovery and operators were "hanging on by a thread".
The federal government announced on Monday borders would open to double COVID-19 vaccinated visa holders from February 21.
She said pre-pandemic, China and New Zealand were Victoria's key visitor markets. Others include Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and India.
"Our nearer neighbours in the Asia Pacific region will probably constitute the earliest influx of international visitors," she said. "The long haul markets like the USA, UK and Europe will take longer because they are long haul and they require more preparation and planning."
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New Zealand visitor arrivals will be delayed due to its own travel restrictions.
At the end of 2019, international visitor spend made up nearly a third of Victoria's total tourism income. Since borders closed more than $9 billion in international visitor spend has "disappeared" from the tourism economy, with thousands of job losses.
Ms Mariani said like much of the industry, Great Ocean Road tour and transport operators relied on the visitors, deriving about 90 per cent of business from overseas tourists.
"As a consequence our tour operators have really been decimated over the last two years because we have not had international visitors and that's really the lion's share of their business."
Warrnambool Tours director Fiona Van Kempen, who runs day trips to Cape Bridgewater, the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road said it was great news and hoped it would encourage more visitors to the south-west.
Port Campbell's Waves Cafe, Bar and Restaurant employee of 17 years Marion Donald said it was wonderful and they'd be welcoming international visitors back with open arms.
"We're very tourist dependent here," Ms Donald said. "This town only has about 400 people. With 11-plus eateries it's not viable without our Australian and international visitors."
"It's been sad to see a lot of businesses go across the region and very hard for those who have been hanging on.
"There's just no way our business can be like it used to be without tourism."
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