The federal government’s $1.2 billion travel subsidy program will give Australians access to 800,000 half-priced air fares to destinations around the nation.
Targeting pandemic-wounded tourist hotspots from Uluru to Cairns, the Morrison government hopes the discount flights scheme will encourage domestic tourists to pick up the shortfall caused by international border closures.
University of Queensland tourism expert Pierre Benckendorff said the subsidised flights represent a “strong enticement” and a bargain for travellers.
“I think it’s a good deal. I don’t think we’ll see deals like this on these routes again,” Dr Benckendorff said.
“They’re fairly substantial and attractive offers. The reduced cost of transport is a really good opportunity to see some places that you might not otherwise get to see.”
Here’s what would-be travellers looking to take advantage of the offer need to know.
Discount travel: When, where, and how to book
Travellers can choose from flight routes across 13 selected regions, with cut-price tickets available for purchase from April 1 until the end of July.
The eligible travel period runs until the end of September, with airlines to start advertising available flights in coming weeks.
Airlines taking part in the scheme include Virgin, Qantas, Jetstar, and regional operators that have been servicing the selected routes over the past two years.
Why it’s all about interstate, regional travel
The $1.2 billion spend is directed towards specific flight routes and overlooks capital cities entirely.
The Adelaide to Kangaroo Island route is the only non-interstate flight available.
“It’s actually a really targeted package because only certain flights on specific routes benefit from it,” Dr Benckendorff said.
The government has focused on more remote regional areas over capital cities in an effort to encourage domestic tourists to visit areas that have struggled to recover from international border closures.
“What’s been happening is people have been travelling, but they’ve been traveling pretty close to home,’’ Dr Benckendorff said.
‘‘So the destinations that are within two or three hours of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are doing well, but places like Broome and Cairns and the Whitsundays and Uluru, which this package really is targeting, have been missing out, because those places are quite difficult to access.
“They’re a long way away from where the major markets are. So I think in that sense, it’s a really, really useful package.”
Many Australians have been “holding off on booking interstate trips because they’re concerned about borders closing again, and then having to cancel their holidays”, Dr Benckendorff said.
Not everyone’s happy
From capital cities missing out to the lack of direct funding for tourism operators, not everyone was happy with the Morrison government’s package.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese slammed the flights as a politically motivated “subsidy for airlines” aimed at marginal seats the Coalition government hopes to win in the next election, comparing it to the sports rorts scandal.
“In Tasmania, northern Tasmania gets support, southern Tasmania [does] not. I wonder what the distinction is between the two? It is called the two marginal seats in northern Tasmania,” Mr Albanese said.
Tourism operators also complained that the package failed to directly pump money into struggling businesses.
The Victoria Tourism Industry Council criticised the government for overlooking destinations, including Melbourne, and failing to address “the key issue of consumer confidence”.
“This will cannibalise our tourism opportunities here in Victoria,” council chief executive Felicia Mariani said.
“This package also fails to address the key issue of consumer confidence. People are reluctant to travel and risk being at the other side of a snap border closure.
“We need to address the issue of snap border closures once and for all if we are to have any hope of encouraging Australians to confidently travel interstate.”
Australia’s top ‘bucket list’ destinations
Discounted flights are a good opportunity to see some iconic Australian destinations.
A recent survey off 1000 Australians by travel search company Kayak homed in on the nation’s top ‘bucket list’ travel spots for 2021.
- Great Barrier Reef (Qld)
- Uluru (NT)
- Kakadu (NT)
- Daintree Rainforest (Qld)
- Great Ocean Road (Vic)
- Cradle Mountain (Tas)
- Cable Beach (WA)
- Mount Kosciuszko (NSW)
- Wineglass Bay/Freycinet National Park (TAS)
- Bay of Fires (Tas).