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Half-Price Flights Go On Sale Today To Help Save Tourism: But Will They?

The first batch of the federal government's subsidised half-price flights has gone on sale today in a bid to encourage Australians to spend up on travel and support the struggling domestic travel and tourism sector.

The first batch of the federal government’s subsidised half-price flights has gone on sale today in a bid to encourage Australians to spend up on travel and support the struggling domestic travel and tourism sector.

With the Easter Holiday break just a day away, this week has already seen travel confidence knocked again due to the snap-three day lockdown in Brisbane and one COVID-19 case in Byron Bay.

While the Brisbane lockdown will end at noon today, and zero new cases have been reported in New South Wales, the subsequent (and inconsistent) panicked fall out from states and territories has meant border restrictions have been reinstated for Queenslanders and some NSW residents.

So will the $1.2 billion federal stimulus program help rescue the travel industry and give people the confidence to commit to travelling again?

The first blast of the half-price airfares have gone on sale today until the end of July, for travel through until the end of September with around 46,000 tickets to be released weekly.

Airfares are to be discounted by 50 per cent, based on fares in February, however, the prices will be “demand-driven and peak periods will cost more.”

The program features Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia airfares to fourteen regions including:

Karry On - Hobart The Waterfront
Dark Mofo Festival, Hobart
  • The Gold Coast
  • Cairns
  • The Whitsundays
  • The Sunshine Coast
  • Alice Springs
  • Launceston
  • Devonport
  • Hobart
  • Burnie
  • Broome
  • Avalon
  • Merimbula
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Lasseter (Including Uluru)

While the discounted fares will undoubtedly get people booking flights again, tourism operators are calling for more wage subsidies and direct financial support, warning half-price flights will not be enough for their businesses to stay afloat.

Simon Westaway from the Australian Tourism Industry Council said subsidised airfares were a good start, but just one stepping stone needed to help the sector back onto its feet.

The industry lost about $90 billion last year, with hospitality and accommodation workers plunged into a free-fall of job losses.

It’s a ropey bridge to the other side for so many…

Mr Westaway said the international border would still be closed for some time, and there were bound to be difficulties around coronavirus flare-ups.

Travel agents and tour operators have no control over lockdowns and domestic border arrangements.

“Our industry is right in the eye of the storm here,” Mr Westaway told the ABC on Thursday.

With JobKeeper having ended on March 28, Westaway is calling for targeted support for the tourism sector, through one-off payments or payroll support.

“It doesn’t necessarily need to be JobKeeper, but certainly, a type of wage subsidy arrangement is certainly a really clean way of doing it.”

Meanwhile, further details of the federal government’s $130 million Consumer Travel Support package ’round two’ for eligible travel agents, companies and operators have still not been released, with the Austrade website only stating that an update is expected ‘In April’.

As the worst-hit sector thanks to COVID-19, numerous travel agents and businesses have already reported job losses and closures this week in light of JobKeeper ending.

Sadly, this will undoubtedly be just the beginning with many more to follow in the coming weeks and months.