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800,000 HALF-PRICE flights to boost tourism

Here's what you need to know. Images: Getty.
Here's what you need to know. Images: Getty.

Australians aching for a holiday will be able to pick up half-price return flights to more than a dozen regional destinations as part of a $1.2 billion plan to save the country’s tourism sector.

The Federal Government unveiled the tourism rescue scheme early on Thursday morning, weeks out from the scheduled end to the JobKeeper payment.

“We need to get Australians back in planes, we need to get those planes back in the air, because planes in the air means jobs on the ground,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told the ABC.

“This $1.2 billion package is going to support so many businesses and so many, so many workers.”

The 800,000 tickets will be Government-subsidised and will be offered to Australians for travel between 1 April and 31 July.

Around 46,000 tickets will be offered each week through airline websites from 1 April.

What regions are included?

In the Northern Territory, Lasseter and Alice Springs are eligible destinations, while in Tasmania, travellers can snap up cheap flights to Launceston, Burnie and Devonport.

In Western Australia, destinations include Broome, and Melbourne’s Avalon is also a spot for cheap travel.

NSW’s Merimbula and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island are also included.

However, most of the destinations are in Queensland, where the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region - including Proserpine and Hamilton Island - and the Sunshine Coast are eligible for travel under the scheme.

These are all the potential routes:

Kangaroo Island (South Australia)

  • Adelaide – Kingscote

Avalon (Victoria)

  • Gold Coast – Avalon

  • Sydney – Avalon

Merimbula (New South Wales)

  • Melbourne – Merimbula

Broome (Western Australia)

  • Darwin – Broome

  • Sydney – Broome

  • Melbourne – Broome

Lasseter and Alice Springs (Northern Territory)

  • Adelaide – Alice Springs

  • Sydney – Uluru

  • Brisbane – Alice Springs

  • Melbourne – Alice Springs

  • Perth – Alice Springs

  • Sydney – Alice Springs

  • Brisbane – Uluru

  • Melbourne – Uluru

Launceston, Devonport and Burnie (Tasmania)

  • Melbourne – Launceston

  • Sydney – Launceston

  • Brisbane – Launceston

  • Melbourne – Devonport

  • Melbourne – Burnie

Gold Coast (Queensland)

  • Adelaide – Gold Coast

  • Melbourne – Gold Coast

  • Sydney – Gold Coast

  • Canberra – Gold Coast

  • Avalon – Gold Coast

Tropical North Queensland (Queensland)

  • Melbourne – Cairns

  • Sydney – Cairns

  • Darwin – Cairns

Whitsundays and Mackay region (Queensland)

  • Sydney – Proserpine

  • Sydney – Hamilton Island

  • Sunshine Coast (Queensland)

  • Sydney – Maroochydore

  • Melbourne – Maroochydore

  • Adelaide – Maroochydore

What else is in the tourism package?

"This is our ticket to recovery," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

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

Around 611,000 Australians are employed by the tourism sector, with domestic tourism worth some $100 billion to the Australian economy.

Qantas, Virgin and other small carriers will see the benefit, while the package also includes support for 8,600 international aviation workers to keep them employed and ready for travel until 31 October.

That date is when international travel is expected to resume.

The Government will also roll out 10-year loans with 24 month repayments holidays for approval from 1 April and 31 December. Businesses on JobKeeper are eligible for the loans.

McCormack said the focus now turns to ensuring states afford domestic travellers surety around their plans.

“The onus is then on premiers not to make those knee-jerk, hasty decisions at a moment's notice to have snap border closures,” he said.

“As the vaccine rolls out, and as JobKeeper comes off, and, of course, so many people are going to be getting back to work, we need to make sure that those premiers keep those borders open. We can't have them just close the borders at a small community transmission outbreak.

“We need to get back to some sort of pre-COVID normality.”

Critics' warning

However, Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner has said the $1.2 billion scheme doesn't do enough.

It is a very small, very meagre package at best," he told Nine.

"I don't think this is going to help at all, really. It is about the borders. Keeping the domestic borders open and getting the international borders open as soon as possible."

The Tourism and Transport Forum has also warned the package will be inefficient in tackling the broader international travel issue, and called for wage subsidies.

With AAP.

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