Hundreds of thousands of Australian travelers will be returning home on Saturday after nearly 20 months of being deprived of international travel in a public holiday shutdown. The country will return to international travel at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, a period when almost all its more than 1.5 million retail trade establishments — restaurants, bars, airports, ferry terminals, ferries, hotels and other tourist traps — are closed. But not everything will be business as usual. Saturday marks a fortieth consecutive long weekend for the country, and it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of Australians will arrive home to a substantially restocked household and home store shelves.
This is at least the third such shutdown. Australia was once among the world’s freest countries. But in the 1980s, then-prime minister Bob Hawke pioneered a budget-cutting package that caused the long weekends to be axed. But in recent years, governments have often resorted to the tactics during budget crises, as they have done in Australia, to make needed spending cuts. These came in the early 2000s and the late 1990s, when the cuts typically applied to public holidays but were also subsequently spread to weekends throughout the year. This year, they had more severe effects on retailers — an employer group said just one or two days’ worth of sales counted for as much as an extra three to four weeks’ worth of earnings.
“Australians are entering 2019 with more frugality than ever before, spending an estimated $60 billion in the last financial year,” said Australia’s retail importers association. “Overall, the sector is committed to providing the best customer experience while sustaining profitability and on-going investment for the majority of retailers.”
Across the board, the increases in personal debt, run-ups in property prices and international competition on pricing have taken a bite out of the bottom line. As a result, travelers around the world will likely feel slightly better about their domestic travel expenditures — especially if they’re traveling to the popular destination of Sydney. The countdown to Saturday has been quite a ride, but the good news is now that the government has intervened with its budget savings and left travelers to enjoy the long weekend.