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Stimulus gives Brisbane travellers choice between the Rock and a hard place

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Not everyone is happy with  the Federal Government’s $1.2 billion tourism plan with Treasurer Cameron Dick pointing to the fact that Queenslanders won’t be eligible to fly within the state on the cheap air fares.

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Brisbane residents will miss out on most of the spoils. Discounted fares from Brisbane will only be to Alice Springs, Uluru and Launceston. No flights into Brisbane will be discounted.

Travel agents will also miss out on the expected rush for cheap tickets because bookings must be done directly with the airlines, and Flight Centre’s Graham “Scroo” Turner has said Australians were already travelling domestically.

He said the package might stimulate some travel but it was “pretty disappointing” from the view of Flight Centre. He told Nine the 800,000 subsidised seats was equivalent to only a couple of weeks of travel.

“It’s a very small, very meagre package at best,” he said.

Despite that, tourism stocks jumped on the ASX this morning with Flight Centre leading the charge with a 9 per cent surge. Qantas shares were up 3.4 per cent.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said there was no doubt the plan would lead to additional travel but there was also a gap of a month between the end of JobKeeper and the start of subsidised travel and business would still need help.

“We have no problem with the airlines being supported and I haven’t seen a breakdown of the figures but on the back of the envelope I figure the majority of the $1.2 billion goes directly to airlines to keep those 8000 jobs and so forth. I have no problems with that,” Gschwind said.

“Some consumers will be very happy that the Government is paying half their airfare. It will certainly lead to more travel if the airlines put extra capacity on. Our concern is how will this boost and flow through to operators on the ground? How long will it take to trickle down to the businesses that have lost their revenue?

“How will these businesses be supported in a timely way. We hope it will work but I think it will leave a lot of businesses still wanting.

“Queensland has done relatively well with four destinations but Brisbane won’t be one of those destinations and it had a severe impact over the past year.

“Travel agents are now effectively sidelined by the fact that the subsidy is available by going directly through the airlines.”

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry also said more needed to be done for business.

The CCIQ said while the holiday stimulus scheme would hopefully create a surge of visitors to our regions, creating a boost of economic activity, that boost won’t happen immediately, and it won’t help pay the bills or staffing costs before they arrive.

“The end of March is a crucial time for many businesses. There will be no more Jobkeeper and the State Government will be reinstating payroll tax, alongside the commencement of the deferred payments,” CCIQ’s Amanda Rohan said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Morrison government needed to do more to mitigate the impact of the end of JobKeeper payments.

She said the aviation subsidies were welcome but needed to at least be extended to cover Brisbane.

“It’s good but unfortunately it’s not good enough,” Palaszczuk told parliament today.

“Much more direct support is still needed for the many tourism operators impacted.”

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the Commonwealth was slow responding to pleas for help and then delivered a confusing, restricted scheme that short-changed the industry and appeared to favour marginal federal seats.

“Queenslanders are prohibited from holidaying in their own state under this half-baked, half-priced ticket scheme,” Dick told parliament.

“This is a serious matter and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Queenslanders are at stake.”

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said Australia’s top destination has just got more affordable and accessible.

“My message to all the Aussies out there is to pack your hiking boots, your sunscreen, your boardies, and if you’re adventurous, your budgies – but don’t wear them on the plane,” Tate said.

“Get here and enjoy the Gold Coast, bring your whole family with you.”

Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said the package would help put the tourism industry back on its feet, but was no silver bullet.

The Gold Coast was expected to hit pre-pandemic tourism levels during Easter, and was on track to beat previous winter bookings.

Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the economic impact of the program cannot be underestimated.

“This is a once in a generation event that is going to give the entire tourism industry supply chain a significant boost, which it desperately needs,” Hrdlicka said.

“This package enables us to get more of our team members back to work more quickly than we would have been able to do before. As long as domestic borders remain open and travel demand continues to grow, we will accelerate our domestic expansion and also begin getting our international operations ready to open. ”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the stimulus program was about helping people stay connected to aviation despite the extended of period of time they faced on the ground.

“It helps preserve the skills and experience we’re going to need when long haul flying restarts. In a country like Australia, that capability has taken years to build and is absolutely crucial for the nation’s future,” Joyce said.

“To be clear, this targeted support will go directly to employees to help them meet their cost of living while they wait for international flying to return. It’s not a subsidy for Qantas.

“In total, this package is a lifeline for broader travel and tourism sector in Australia, just as it’s trying to get back on its feet. Ultimately, it’s an investment in an industry that has always been a huge driver of economic activity and will be again,” added Mr Joyce.

 

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