Lifeguards and drag queens to welcome visitors as Australia opens its borders

Travellers touching down in Australia on Monday will be welcomed by lifeguards and drag queens as the country celebrates reopening its borders to people from around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gift bags including vegemite and stuffed koalas will be given out to the thousands of people arriving across the country.

The Qantas Group says it will fly more than 14,000 passengers into Australia this week as quarantine and border barriers for international tourists come down.

Flight QF12 from Los Angeles was the first to land at 6.20am local time and flights from other international destinations including Vancouver, Singapore and London will arrive in Sydney throughout the day. 

Kanga Ru-paul?
Kanga Ru-paul? Photo credit: CBS

Jetstar's first unrestricted international flight JQ18 will touch down in Melbourne from Phuket at 10.05am local time, and QF70 from Delhi to Melbourne arrives just a couple of hours later.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said bookings had been strong since the Australian Government announced the country was reopening to international visitors, and today's arrivals will be the first of many.

"It's fair to say we've all been waiting a long time to welcome visitors back to Australia. The thousands of international tourists arriving this week and many more over the coming months will help kickstart the tourism industry which has done it tough for the past couple of years," said Joyce.

"We're in this position today thanks to the millions of Australians who rolled up their sleeves to get the jab and give the Australian Government and state and territory governments' confidence that we can safely reopen to the world.

"We can clearly see from the Australian Government's announcement that people are very keen to come back to Australia, and we continue to see strong bookings out of the US and UK, as well as South Africa and Canada."

Speaking to media in Melbourne on Sunday, the Australian Prime Minister said "the wait is over" for the country's tourism industry.