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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Half-price flights headline federal tourism support package

Update: Adelaide and Darwin have been added to the list of “regional destinations” to qualify for half-price airfares, increasing the total number of destinations from the initial 13 to 15.

The Federal Government is hoping a new $1.2 billion tourism support package will see Australia’s airlines, hotels and caravan parks, restaurants and bars, travel agents and tourism operators flourish.

The program will look to incentivise domestic tourism with a mix of half-price airline tickets, while expanding their loan offerings for small and medium businesses and providing direct financial support to the aviation industry.

The key offering of interest to the wider public is 800,000 half-price airfares will that initially operate to 13 regional destinations across Australia.

Locations include the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island.

The discounts will be off the average fare, available on airline websites from 1 April and offered on tens of thousands of fares per week.

Flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines.

Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron said the package supports businesses across the tourism sector including airlines, hotels, restaurants and operators.

“This package shows that the government is confident that border closures are finished. With the vaccine rollout now in full swing, it is now safe to travel,” he said.

“Canberra Airport’s passenger numbers for February were still 63% down compared with 2019 and our industry has a long way to go.”

Canberra is directly connected to three of the 13 initial regional destinations for the half-price ticket program – Gold Coast, Cairns and the Sunshine Coast.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s tourism businesses “don’t want to rely on government support forever”.

“They want their tourists back,” he said.

“This package, combined with our vaccine roll-out which is gathering pace, is part of our National Economic Recovery Plan and the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading.”

Additional measures in the tourism support package include:

  • New international aviation support to help Australia’s international passenger airlines maintain more than 8,000 core international aviation jobs.
  • Support for regular passenger airports to meet their domestic security screening costs.
  • A new Aviation Services Assistance Support Program to help ground-handling companies meet the costs of mandatory training, certification and accreditation to ensure they maintain their workforces so they can stand them back up when the market expands again.
  • The reinstatement of domestic aviation security screening cost rebates for more than 50 regular passenger airports.

Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain welcomed the news a location in her electorate, Merimbula, was one of the 13 regional destinations to qualify for half-price airfares.

“Local tourism operators and the wider regional economy have waited a long time for this very welcome news,” she said.

“I look forward to finding out more about this package and how it will roll out, and I welcome feedback from the local industry as it becomes a reality.

“The visitors who will come on the back of this initiative will have a great time in our beautiful environment and community, they will leave with a big smile, but more than that, they will leave knowing that they have played their role in helping our community rebuild and recover.”

Tourism support package a ‘ticket to nowhere’

Greens tourism spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was sceptical of the package, declaring half-price airfares to 13 destinations for four months “will not save Australia’s tourism industry”.

“The only way to ensure the industry survives is with a wage subsidy, otherwise this is just a ticket to nowhere for tourism,” she said.

“The only people taking these flights will be those who can afford a holiday. Many Australians cannot afford a $60 flight to the Gold Coast, let alone accommodation, food and experiences once they arrive.”

The Federal Government today also announced the ‘Small and Medium Enterprise Loan Guarantee Scheme’ will be expanded and extended.

The expanded scheme will increase the size of eligible loans from $1 million under the current scheme to $5 million.

Under the existing scheme, more than 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided.

Maximum loan terms under the expanded scheme will also be increased from five to 10 years – providing businesses and lenders with greater flexibility.

Loans will be available from 1 April and must be approved prior to 31 December.

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