A Federal Government subsidy will slash airfares in half for 800,000 tickets from April as part of a plan to boost tourism to Australia's regional areas.
Announced this morning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the cheap flights are part of a $1.2 billion support package for the country's tourism industry which is still doing it tough without international tourists in Australia.
The package is a mix of half-price airline tickets, cheap loans for businesses, and direct support for airlines.
"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," the Prime Minister 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."
The half-price ticket program will initially operate to 13 key regions including 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.
Flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines.
The discounts will be off the average fare and will be available on airline websites from 1 April.
Qantas (ASX: QAN) CEO Alan Joyce said the announcement was great news for Australian tourism.
"[The discounted tickets] will stimulate demand, that will get people to go to the 13 destinations, the 13 regions, and it will cover 57 different routes on our network to get people to travel to those destinations at non-peak times," Joyce said.
"That's good for local tourism in those states - tourism that's been devestated.
"It also means we activate more aircraft. That means more quality people back at work domestically, more Qantas people flying domestically, more engineers, more cabin crew, more pilots, which gets our domestic operation back up and running."
The airline says Qantas and Jetstar are at about 60 per cent of their pre-COVID levels of domestic flying for the third quarter of this financial year and project this will increase to around 80 per cent in the fourth quarter.
"In total, this package is a lifeline for the broader travel and tourism sector in Australia, just as it's trying to get back on its feet. Ultimately, it's an investment in an industry that has always been a huge driver of economic activity and will be again," added Joyce.
Shares in major travel companies are up in response to the news, with Flight Centre (ASX: FLT) up 12 per cent, Webjet (ASX: WEB) up 5.8 per cent, Qantas up 3.5 per cent, Corporate Travel Management (ASX: CTD) up 2.8 per cent and Helloworld Travel (ASX: HLO) up 5.22 per cent.
New Melbourne travel vouchers on offer tomorrow
New $200 travel vouchers will be made available to Victorians from tomorrow, giving them an incentive to visit and stay in Melbourne.
Around 40,000 vouchers will be made available through the scheme, which the state government hopes will support accommodation providers, attractions, and experiences across the metropolitan area.
The vouchers will be valid for travel in an eight-week window - from 19 March to 16 May.
To access the vouchers, visitors must spend $400 or more on accommodation, attractions or experiences, and must spend a minimum of two nights in paid accommodation.
Victorians secured 110,000 vouchers valued at $200 in the first two releases of the regional scheme, including 40,000 vouchers currently valid for travel up to 1 April. Some 52,000 claimants in the first round of the regional scheme spent an estimated $85 million across Victoria, bolstering businesses and jobs.
"These vouchers will deliver a significant boost to tourism operators and will mean even more people have the chance to experience the best of Melbourne," Victorian Minister for tourism, sport and major events Martin Pakula said.
"Whether it's a staycation or a visit from regional Victoria, there's never been a better time to lose yourself in marvellous Melbourne."
Updated at 9.21am AEDT on 11 March 2021.
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