Half-price flights to Tassie under new government scheme will be a boon to local small businesses, says SME advocate

Aussie wineries

Businesses in regional tourist destinations are expected to receive an influx of travellers, after the federal government announced it will pay half the price of selected domestic airline tickets as part of a $1.2 billion package.

Today, the Morrison government revealed it will discount about 800,000 tickets to 13 regions including Tasmania and remote and regional tourist spots.

The locations are: Launceston, Davenport, Burnie, Avalon, Broome, Lasseter, Alice Springs, Kangaroo Island, Merimbula, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, the Whitsundays, and the Mackay region.

The move is part of the government’s national economic recovery plan that will target businesses and regions still struggling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The discounts will be available on airline websites between April 1 and July 31. They will apply for travel between May and September 2021.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Robert Mallett, executive officer of the Tasmanian Small Business Council, says the discounted flights will be a fantastic boost for all kinds of businesses across the state, and particularly for accommodation and hospitality businesses.

“Tasmania is well known for its quality food and wine. Let’s hope it helps lots of small restaurants providing really good quality fare and lots of wineries,” Mallett says.

One concern, however, is whether there will be enough transport and accommodation options to welcome an influx of travellers.

Already, over the Christmas period there were shortages of hire cars in Tasmania, which led the state government to release many of the cars it usually uses to offer to visitors, Mallett says.

“There’s nothing worse [than] if you are trying to get the flight, but you can’t actually find a car to get out of town and head down to Cradle Mountain or wherever you’re going,” he says.

“The Tasmanian government may have to step in and curtail some of its car hiring to enable visitors to take advantage of the vehicles available.”

In Tasmania, tourism contributes more to the state’s economy than in any other Australian state or territory, with the industry directly and indirectly contributing about $3.6 billion or 11.1% to gross state product (GSP), according to Tourism Tasmania.

The national economic recovery plan will also support businesses catering to corporate events, as well as zoos and aquariums, and the aviation industry.

The federal government will extend the business events grants program for a further three months.

A program providing grants to zoos and aquariums to help cover the high costs of animal care while visitor admission is low will also be extended by six months.

And, the aviation industry will receive a range of relief measures to help international airlines retain more than 8,000 core aviation staff until international travel restrictions are eased.

Announcing the package on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the mix of half-price airline tickets and support to keep airline workers employed will be a bridge “to a more normal way of life for Australians”.

“This package will take more tourists to our hotels and cafes, taking tours and exploring our backyard,” Morrison said in a statement.

“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.”

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