‘Ticket to recovery’: $1.2 billion support for tourism
Thousands of tourists will be able to travel to the Far North on half-price airfares after it was announced the Federal Government will subsidies 800,000 plane tickets to tourism hotspots.
The announcement comes as part of a new $1.2 billion support package unveiled on Thursday to support the tourism and aviation sector when JobKeeper ends at the end of this month.
The package also includes cheap loans for businesses and direct support to keep planes in the air, and airline workers in their jobs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while Australia’s economy had recovered 85 per cent of its fall from COVID-19, the next step in the Government’s National Economic Recovery Plan would target the businesses, workers and regions still doing it tough.
“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 roll-out 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 half-price ticket program will initially operate to 13 key regions including Cairns, the Gold Coast, the Whitsundays and Mackay region, the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island.
The half-price ticket program will see tourists from Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin receive subsidised flights to Cairns from 1 April 2021 until 31 July 2021.
Flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines.
Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack said the measures would work hand-in-hand to boost interstate tourism and aviation.
“The new Tourism Aviation Network Support (TANS) Program will give Australians clear incentives to travel to key domestic tourism areas,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
“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.”
Other new measures in the support package include:
- New International Aviation Support to help Australia’s international passenger airlines maintain more than 8,000 core international aviation jobs
- Support for regular passenger airports to meet their domestic security screening costs
- A new Aviation Services Assistance Support Program to help ground-handling companies meet the costs of mandatory training, certification and accreditation to ensure they maintain their workforces so they can stand them back up when the market expands again.
- The reinstatement of domestic aviation security screening cost rebates for more than 50 regular passenger airports
Small business loans
The Morrison Government will also expand and extend its ‘SME Loan Guarantee Scheme’.
Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the scheme will be targeted and tailored to support those businesses that have been relying on JobKeeper during the March quarter.
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.
"The expanded scheme will also increase the size of eligible loans, increasing from $1 million under the current Scheme to $5 million," Mr Entsch said.
"Businesses with a higher turnover will also benefit under the expanded Scheme, with the maximum eligible turnover increased from $50 million to $250 million.
"Maximum loan terms under the expanded Scheme will also be increased from 5 to 10 years," he said.
The expanded scheme will also allow lenders to offer borrowers a repayment holiday of up to 24 months. The Scheme will also be able to be used by eligible businesses to refinance their existing loans.
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.
The Government has also extended the following programs to 30 September 2021:
- the successful Domestic Aviation Network Support (DANS) and Regional Aviation Network Support (RANS) programs
- the 50 per cent waiver of domestic air services charges for Regular Public Transport (RPT) and aeromedical flights
- the International Freight Assistance Mechanism.
The $50 million Business Events Grants Program will also be extended by three months to support Australian businesses to hold multi-day business events, covering up to 50 per cent of costs incurred in participating business events during the 2021 calendar year.
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.
The COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program will also be extended for three months beyond 13 March.
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