Half-price flights to holiday spots across Australia will be offered within weeks to destinations including Tropical North Queensland and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island under a recovery plan to support the COVID-19 battered tourism industry.
Holiday makers will be able to book the flights from April 1, with the program to 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.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce the $1.2 billion support package on Thursday under a plan designed to deliver “a rush of nearly 800,000 tourists to regions hit hard by border closures.
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The flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the 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. 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.”
The discount fares will be offered on tens of thousands of fares per week across an initial 13 key tourism regions.
“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,’’ Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said.
“In a big win for local communities, especially in regional Australia, we will continue to financially support flights which are so key to health services, employment opportunities.”
In a replacement of sorts for the JobKeeper wage subsidy program, a new International Aviation Support program will also be unveiled to help Australia’s two international passenger airlines maintain more than 8,000 core international aviation jobs
And for tourism operators currently using the JobKeeper scheme, between 4 Jan and 28 March, a new loan scheme will also be offered to help struggling businesses.
Cheap loans for businesses and direct support to Qantas and regional airlines flying will also be offered in an attempt to support jobs when the JobKeeper payment ends on March 31.
The Morrison Government will also provide cash to support for regular passenger airports to meet their domestic security screening costs.
The cost of training staff, certification and accreditation will also be subsidised to help airlines stand up staff quickly as demand increases.
This will include the reinstalment of domestic aviation security screening cost rebates for more than 50 regular passenger airports.
The existing Small and Medium Enterprises Loan Guarantee Scheme’ will also be extended to provide $40 billion in lending to eligible tourism operators.
Already, 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided but that program will be extended.
In a statement, the Morrison Government said the SME Recovery Loan Scheme will benefit from an increased Government guarantee, increasing from the current 50/50 split between the Government and the banks to an 80/20 split.
This will encourage more banks to support small businesses and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to back those businesses that are prepared to back themselves.
The new scheme will expand the size of eligible loans, increasing from $1 million under the current Scheme to $5 million. Businesses with a higher turnover will also benefit under the expanded Scheme, with the maximum eligible turnover increased from $50 million to $250 million.
The loan terms will also be increased from 5 to 10 years – providing businesses and lenders with greater flexibility and offer borrowers a repayment holiday of up to 24 months.
Eligible businesses can also access the new, expanded scheme to refinance their existing loans.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said more than 350,000 current JobKeeper recipients are expected to be eligible under the expanded Scheme. Loans will be available from 1 April 2021 and must be approved prior to 31 December 2021.
“Our support for the aviation sector will not just keep planes in the air but will also provide a boost to domestic tourism while our international borders remain closed,’’ he said.
“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.”
Separately, the $94.6 million Zoos and Aquarium program will be extended by six months to support zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks to maintain their animal populations where their tourism revenue has been affected by travel and social distancing restrictions.