'Not good enough': Premier says half-priced fares inadequate

 

A $1.2 billion Federal Government package to boost Australia's struggling tourism sector has been slammed as 'not good enough' by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Australians will be able to snap up 800,000 government-subsidised half-price airfares to 13 regional tourism hot spots hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the rescue package, announced today, people will be able to log onto major airline websites including Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin from April 1 to book a flight to some of Australia's best holiday destinations and the Federal Government will cover half the cost.

But there is a catch - at this stage, Queenslanders will have to travel interstate to access the deal with only flights from Brisbane to Uluru and Launceston included.

Interstate travellers will be able to fly to Cairns, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Whitsundays and Hamilton Island in Queensland and Alice Springs, Devonport, Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula and Kangaroo Island elsewhere.

Ms Palaszczuk welcomed the package, but demanded Canberra provide more.

"It's good but unfortunately, it's not good enough," she said.

"Much more direct support is still needed for the many tourism operators impacted by the end of JobKeeper.

"I'm calling on the Federal Government to provide subsidised flights from Brisbane to Cairns to help further stimulate tourism demand in Far North Queensland."

The Premier also revealed more than 104,552 Queenslanders have entered the ballot to win one of 15,000 vouchers for tourism experiences in the Far North.

Interstate travellers will be able to bag half-price airfare to Tropical North Queensland.
Interstate travellers will be able to bag half-price airfare to Tropical North Queensland.

The Federal Government package will also include financial support to Qantas and Virgin to retain up to 8600 employees in their international operations up until October 31, when the airlines expect to resume overseas travel.

The government will also expand loan support to small and medium businesses facing a fiscal cliff once JobKeeper ends on March 28.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the package was a "ticket to recovery" for the $100bn tourism industry as it would get Australians travelling again so operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines could all cash in.

"This package will take more tourists to our hotels and cafes, taking tours and exploring our backyard," he said.

"Our tourism businesses don't want to rely on government support forever. They want tourists back."

The half-price airfare will be available on Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin. Picture: Brendan Radke
The half-price airfare will be available on Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin. Picture: Brendan Radke

It's expected up to 46,000 discounted fares could be offered each week between April 1 to July 31.

The tickets will be offered through the airline's websites with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar expected to provide the bulk of the travel options.
Other small regional operators may opt in on routes servicing 13 regions chosen initially and total ticket numbers will be driven by demand.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the package would work "hand-in-hand" to boost interstate tourism and aviation in key regions significantly impacted by the loss of tourists.

"We're working with airlines to increase the number of flights to these tourism areas - giving travellers the flexibility needed when organising dream holidays to destinations such as Tropical North Queensland and Kangaroo Island," he said.

Support will also be provided to ensure international planes are in "flight ready" condition proportionate to their pre-COVID level of passenger services.


The SME loan guarantee which has already backed more than $3bn worth of loans since the start of the pandemic will also be expanded and extended for businesses still on JobKeeper between January 4 and March 28.

Businesses will be able to apply for loans of up to $5m with 24 month repayment holidays and can be used to refinance existing debt.

Support covering the cost of baggage handlers maintaining their mandatory training, certification and accreditation will also be provided from March 29 to September 30 to ensure the workforce is "ready to stand back up" when the market expands.

Other existing programs to be extended include:

Domestic and regional network support for key routes and freight

Waiving aviation security and Airservices Australia charges until September 30

International freight assistance

Zoo and aquarium program

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said support for small and medium businesses would help them "stand on their own two feet" as the economy recovered.

"The expansion and extension of the loans will back businesses that back themselves and will help businesses who continue to do it tough build a bridge to the other side of the crisis and keep their staff employed," he said.

Louisa Caswell, 31, Lauren Douglas, 32, and Emma Walsh, 30, all from Tasmania, at Brisbane Airport on their way to Airlie Beach. Picture: Liam Kidston
Louisa Caswell, 31, Lauren Douglas, 32, and Emma Walsh, 30, all from Tasmania, at Brisbane Airport on their way to Airlie Beach. Picture: Liam Kidston

Tasmanian trio Louisa, Lauren and Emma said their girls' trip to Airlie Beach was the first time they had been in Queensland since COVID-19.

"We're excited to be back in sunny Queensland … for our next trip we would love to spend a similar amount of time on the Gold Coast," said Emma.

Given the option to travel anywhere in Australia, the girls concurred that Western Australia would be at the top of their list as well as less discovered areas further north.

"We would definitely make the most of this opportunity particularly if we were to travel out west."

Wildlife HQ chief executive Jarrod Schenk said the Sunshine Coast was "booming" as Queenslanders explored their own backyard but government support had been vital when they were closed from March to May 2020.

"Covid hit us really hard at the time but since we reopened our doors in June, it's been such a great reaction with community visitation and support," he said.

Mowgli the Serval Cat gets up close with keeper Bec Roskilley at Wildlife HQ on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Lachie Millard
Mowgli the Serval Cat gets up close with keeper Bec Roskilley at Wildlife HQ on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

TOURISM KICKSTART

 

More flights to an initial 13 regions, including the Gold Coast, Cairns, Sunshine Coast and Whitsundays

50% discount on domestic fares

Expansion and extension of the SME Loan Guarantee Scheme, increasing from the current 50/50 split between the Government and the banks to an 80/20 split

Financial support for the aviation industry to keep 8600 employees in work from April 1 to 31 October, when international flights are expected to resume

Zoos and aquarium program extended by six months to maintain animal populations

Consumer travel support program to run a further three months

 

 

HOW DO I GET MY HALF-PRICE TICKET?

 

Reserve your seat on your airline's website from April 1.

It will be any airline which has run the indicative routes outlined below in the past two years, and any that the government decides in the future.

Companies will include Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and a handful of other small regional operators who opt in.

 

THE ROUTES

 

Gold Coast

From Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Avalon

Tropical North Queensland

Cairns from Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin

Whitsundays and Mackay region

Sydney to Proserpine and Hamilton Island

Sunshine Coast

Maroochydore from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide

Lasseter and Alice Springs (Northern Territory)

Alice Springs from Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney

Ayers Rock from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne

Launceston, Devonport and Burnie (Tasmania)

Melbourne to Launceston, Devonport and Burnie

Sydney and Brisbane to Launceston

Broome (Western Australia)

From Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne

Avalon (Victoria)

From Gold Coast and Sydney

Merimbula (NSW)

From Melbourne

Kangaroo Island (South Australia)

Adelaide to Kingscote

 

Additional reporting: Maddy Morwood, Nillson Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Ticket to recovery': Half-price airfare bonanza



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