Gold Coast’s tourism industry is finally being thrown a lifeline from the federal government, thanks to a massive $1.2 billion package announced for Australia today.
The ‘Ticket to Recovery’ will come into place from April 1, right as the Job Keeper scheme comes to an official end.
It includes extended business and aviation support for areas of the tourism industry that are still struggling, but for consumers – it means half-price flights.
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The federal government will subsidise half the cost of return flights to more than a dozen regional tourism destinations, including the Gold Coast.
There’ll also be an increased number of flights to the destinations, which also include Lasseter and Alice Springs in the NT, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie in Tasmania, Broome in Western Australia, Avalon near Melbourne, Merimbula in New South Wales and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Queensland will hopefully be the big winner of the incentivised domestic tourism – with Cairns, the Whitsundays, Proserpine, Hamilton Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast on the list for increased and half-price flights.
Destination CEO Patricia O’Callaghan has told myGC that this is very welcomed news for our industry, which supports roughly one in six jobs.
“As much as we have a long road ahead, this is a really positive step forward, and at the moment we’re saying to Australians all over the country: ‘make the most of it, look at your calendars and find a way to get to the Gold Coast’.”
“We want to see people at the end of the day in our region, our operators, especially during that winter period, will see normally – on a normal year – a dip in visitation, so the fact that this is incentivising travel we would love Australians to take it up and come to the Gold Coast.
“Even with ‘Wot If’ – we know that the Gold Coast is right at the top when it comes to Australians looking for their next holiday destination.
“So we’re saying now ‘if you’re searching for us, take up the federal government offer, subsidise your airfares, bring the family here, bring your business event here, and make the most of it because this is a great incentive to convert that search into real travel,” Ms O’Callaghan told myGC.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was on the Gold Coast recently, talking to tourism leaders on what the industry needed most in terms of ongoing support.
He’s told 1029 Hot Tomato that the Gold Coast was a key concern in building this package.
“We have been working on it for some weeks, obviously we know that Job Keeper was going to come to an end by the end of March, but the tourism sector is still doing it tough.
“It’s clear that there’s a lot of tourism operators, hotels and cafes and retail shops and of course the airlines, that have been hurt by the international border closures and the domestic closures.
He’s adamant that getting more planes in the air will mean more dollars on the ground for struggling tourism towns.
“The tourist dollar her is so important domestically, we took advice about the regions that were most affected by international border closures; Gold Coast, Cairns in our north, and Launceston Avalon and Kangaroo Island in the south.
“For every one dollar spent on a ticket, $10 will be spent on the ground,” he told 1029 Hot Tomato.
The flights will be available half price between April and September, through airline websites.
The Federal Treasurer has assured that airlines aren’t able to bump up the cost themselves.
“We’ve based the pricing on what it was over the month of February, the airlines can’t just increase the price and not really give you guys the benefit.
“You’ll be able to go online with the airlines and book the tickets, and we want this up and running by early April in time for the school holidays,” he said.
The government also will provide retention payments to help airlines maintain aircraft and keep staff on until the end of October, and will also expand loan support to small and medium businesses.
It’s understood the payments will help keep around 8,600 international aviation workers employed until international travel can resume.
The new loans will be of up to 10 years with a two-year principal and interest repayment holiday, while the maximum loan amount will be increased from $1 million to $5 million for businesses with a turnover of $250 million.
Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O’Callaghan told myGC it’s a positive step forward, but there’s still more work to be done.
“There are always ways that we can look at additional measures of support and it won’t be one silver bullet.
“I know that taking on more debt for some is very scary, especially after they’ve taken out loans to get through the last 12 months.
“So it will be a range of measures, but at the end of the day – we need our tourists back.
“Anything we can do to incentives travel and get people here and hopefully get international borders open once again, that’s where we’re looking at into the horizon.
“And just taking one day at a time and one step forward at a time,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said now is the time to pack your “hiking boots, boardies, sunscreen and budgies” and head to the coast.
“Australia’s number one destination has just got more affordable and accessible,” the Mayor said.
“I implore the Federal Government funding $1.2 billion, around 800,000 seats.
“My message to all the Aussies out there is start packing your hiking boots, boardies, sunscreen and if you’re adventurous, your budgies – but don’t wear them on the plane!
“Get down here, enjoy the Gold Coast and bring your whole family with you.”