Discounted Whitsunday flights to boost tourism industry
EXCLUSIVE: Cut-price flight tickets to the Whitsundays are part of a $1.2 billion tourism and aviation package to boost struggling tourism destinations.
The Daily Mercury and Whitsunday Times understand the 800,000 discounted tickets are expected to include return flights from Sydney to both Proserpine and Hamilton Island between April 1 and July 31.
Increased flights will go to an initial 13 regions - the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays, the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula and Kangaroo Island.
Demand will drive flights, routes and the total ticket number, which are subject to final discussions with the airlines.
The half-price tickets will be available on airline websites from April 1.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this next step in the COVID-19 recovery plan would target the businesses, workers and regions still doing it tough.
He said the package's mix of half-price airline tickets, cheap loans for businesses and direct support to keep planes in the air, and airline workers in their jobs, would be a bridge to a more normal way of life for Australians.
"This is our ticket to recovery - 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling and supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines who continue to do it tough through COVID-19, while our international borders remain closed," he said.
"This package will take more tourists to our hotels and cafes, taking tours and exploring our backyard.
"That means more jobs and investment for the tourism and aviation sectors as Australia heads towards winning our fight against COVID-19 and the restrictions that have hurt so many businesses.
"Our tourism businesses don't want to rely on government support forever. They want their tourists back.
"This package, combined with our vaccine rollout which is gathering pace, is part of our National Economic Recovery Plan and the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading."
WHITSUNDAYS YEAR IN REVIEW
The Morrison Government has also expanded its SME recovery loan scheme between April 1 and December 31 this year.
Eligible businesses, those who have graduated off JobKeeper between January 4 and March 28, can apply for 10-year loans up to $5 million, with 24-month repayment holidays.
Dawson MP George Christensen said he welcomed "the generous and extremely flexible loan scheme for our tourism operators to navigate a return to normal".
"I've been calling for holiday incentives to draw tourists back to the beautiful Whitsundays for months now, so I am thrilled to see this included in today's announcement of support for the tourism industry," he said.
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the government was also extending temporary, targeted measures for parts of the tourism sector impacted most from border closures.
"The thing our tourism operators want more than anything is tourists so we need Australians to do their patriotic duty and book a holiday this year because every dollar spent on an Australian holiday is a dollar that supports a local job and a local business," he said.
"Our government's support package will help get more Australians into those tourist areas most impacted by border lockdowns, and we need states and territories to do their part by agreeing to a nationally consistent approach to using border closures and lockdowns as a last resort on medical advice."
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates the tourism sector employs about 611,000 people.
Domestic tourism is worth $100 billion to the Australian economy.
About 2.7 million individuals across about 650,000 businesses have now graduated from JobKeeper but the sectors impacted by continued international travel restrictions as well as state health-based restrictions had the highest proportion of zero or low hour JobKeeper workers in December.
About 20 per cent were in cafes and restaurants, travel agencies and tour arrangement services, accommodation, and air and space transport sectors.
There are also international aviation and aviation service accreditations support programs, event grants and zoo funding being announced in the package.