NSW businesses and the tourism industry are hoping for a bumper summer as people plan reunions with family and friends as travel restrictions lift.
Nearly 600 days after the nation closed its international borders, Australians who had been stranded overseas began pouring into Sydney airport on Monday, with no need to quarantine.
The same day, fully vaccinated people became free to travel anywhere in the state and bookings for hospitality venues are no longer capped.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet hailed it "a very important milestone" three weeks after the state began emerging from lockdown.
"It's the start of a new journey as we open up and we won't go backwards," he told reporters in Dubbo in the state's west on Monday.
"We'll start to rejoin the world."
Tourism & Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond said the day would be remembered as "the day Australian tourism began the long march back to recovery".
"However, as many states are still closed to each other ... the tourism recovery will remain patchy and piecemeal for many months to come", she said.
Business NSW said confidence had suffered a hit in the last quarter but there was cause for optimism as the state reopens.
CEO Daniel Hunter said that despite the latest Business Conditions Survey being conducted "in the middle of perhaps the most dire and challenging economic periods we've seen", business owners had "a level of optimism that they will be able to recover".
More than half of businesses said they would not have survived without government support but 41 per cent of businesses were ready to 'snap back' as soon as restrictions were lifted.
"With regional travel now allowed in NSW, that figure will be growing as we countdown to Christmas," Mr Hunter said.
Reopening had put the need for skilled migration back in the spotlight as industries like hospitality, tourism and agriculture desperately look for workers.
In heartwarming scenes from dawn on Monday, hundreds of returning Australians landed in Sydney to be greeted with tears, hugs and Tim Tams from loved ones.
"It is a great day for our state," Mr Perrottet said.
Initially, flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents.
Qantas is putting on flights between Sydney and London and Los Angeles, with flights to other destinations due soon.
"We are back in the air earlier than anticipated thanks to the millions of people who turned out in droves to get vaccinated," CEO Alan Joyce said.
Qantas flight QF1 from Sydney to London will be one of the first to depart at 6.30pm carrying outbound vaccinated Australians.
The government predicts the return of regional tourism, with business confidence expected to soar as pent up demand prompts travellers to book holidays.
More than 80 per cent of regional local government areas are now double vaccinated, compared to 36 per cent two weeks ago.
Mr Perrottet said the state's high vaccination rates had paved the way for a safe reopening and flagged that health authorities now believe it's possible to get 95 per cent of the state fully jabbed.
He urged people to prioritise travel to the NSW regions - even after other states open their borders.
"My message today is ... don't go interstate - come out to regional NSW and enjoy the best the state has to offer."
Monday also sees the state's vaccine booster program open to adults who received their second jab six months ago.
Meanwhile, the daily tally of COVID-19 cases continues to decline with 135 new local cases - 42 fewer than the previous day - and four deaths recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.
There are 349 COVID patients in hospital, with 77 people in intensive care, 33 of whom are ventilated.
Some 93.6 per cent of people aged 16 and older have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 87.7 per cent of adults are fully jabbed.
Australian Associated Press