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Treasurer talks up Qantas revival of Japan-Cairns route

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is keen to encourage Qantas to bring in high-spending Japanese tourists to north Queensland once international borders reopen.

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Visiting Cairns, where the pandemic has hit tourism businesses hard, Frydenberg said restoring such flights could deliver a boost to the economy.

He said he would talk to Qantas boss Alan Joyce about the major carrier bringing Qantas-branded flights from Japan to the north Queensland tourist hotspot on a regular basis.

Only Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary Jetstar flies the Japan to Cairns route.

More than a decade ago, Cairns received more than 200,000 Japanese visitors a year.

“I think it is really important to recapture that Japanese tourist market – it’s a lucrative market for Cairns,” Frydenberg told 4CA radio on Monday.

“Jetstar is obviously a different product. Qantas is more of a premium product and that is important for the Japanese tourist sector.”

Decisions were a commercial matter for the airline, he said.

“But I think it will be important for the Cairns region if you can have that high quality, high spending Japanese tourist market coming back to this area.”

He said he understood Joyce would be visiting the region soon.

He said the Government would not be rushed into reopening international borders pointed to the rollout of vaccines making “a real difference”.

Earlier, he held out the prospect of more help for the travel and tourism sector to cope with the pandemic’s devastation to businesses.

The treasurer said the government had already committed $251 billion in support for business and industry, with a further $100 billion still to be rolled out.

However, he recognised there were specific challenges in aviation and tourism which needed a government response.

“We’re still finalising those details but it’s a matter of days,” Frydenberg said.

The visit came as the Tourism and Transport Forum released heat map research showing more than 34 per cent of the country’s tourism hotspots had suffered a 40 per cent or more decline in visitors in the year ended September, due to the pandemic.

Falls in visitor numbers in the rest of Australia ranged between 10 per cent to 40 per cent, the research by Stafford Strategy found.

The tourism sector has been affected by the collapse in international visitors since the start of the pandemic.

While domestic tourism has helped to fill some of the gaps, it’s not enough, the sector argues.

Osmond also repeated a TFF call to the states and territories to keep their borders open so as not to stifle nascent interstate tourism.

The Australian Tourism Export Council said support should include a grants-based program to preserve skills and expertise in the inbound tourism sector.

“Inbound tour operators are the bridge that joins the international tourism trade with Australian tourism businesses, many of which are in regional Australia and cannot connect into the global market without expert ITOs supporting and promoting them,” it said.

Meanwhile, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston noted a range of social security payments would increase from March 20, in line with indexation arrangements.

The JobSeeker payment will increase by up to $5.10 a fortnight, including the energy supplement.

The Australian Council of Social Service says the rate is still inadequate and is lobbying senators to amend a bill before parliament to be more generous.

 

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