“Schmozzle”… that’s how the Federal Government’s tourism package was being described in the Northern Territory’s Top End today, after Darwin was a late addition to the destinations set to benefit from half-price airfares.
The Commonwealth announced a $1billion tourism package today to encourage interstate travel and save sectors left struggling without international tourists.
Alice Springs and Uluru were included as part of the initial 13 routes identified, which prompted anger from Darwin tourism operators the city was left out, when Broome and Cairns would also benefit.
But confusion was caused when Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan spoke to local radio station, Mix 104.9, to reveal some happy news.
“When it comes to the Northern Territory, Darwin, Ayers Rock and Alice Springs will all be part of the incentive to get people travelling again.”
He was asked to clarify by host Katie Woolf.
“So we will actually be able to get those half-price flights to Darwin?”
“There will be half price flights that will be available to go to Alice Springs, Ayers Rock and to Darwin.”
But that was later shot down by the offices of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister when media sought to clarify – Darwin wasn’t actually on the list of destinations, but could be added at a later date.
Hours later, another backflip, when NT CLP Senator Dr Sam McMahon released a statement confirming Darwin was now included.
“I spoke to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack last night and demanded Darwin be added to the list after it was initially not included in the 13 destinations eligible for half price tickets as part of the COVID-19 recovery plan,” Senator McMahon said.
“I insisted that Darwin be added to the list and he has confirmed to me today that it will be part of the package,” she said.
Tourism Top End General Manager, Glen Hingley, slammed the confusion and mixed messages.
“This has been a terrible day… to hear it’s on, it’s off, it’s on, it’s off.”
“My heart really goes out to all of our tourism operators who their wellbeing today has been unneccessarily played with.”
He welcomed Darwin being added to the list, but said some damage had already been done with the city missing out on valuable early publicity.
“That first move or advantage has been lost to Darwin now, that’s a real problem.”
“We’re going to be working hard on behalf of our industry and working closely with Tourism NT and the folk at Austrade to be able to claw our position back.”
Mostly forgotten in today’s drama was Central Australia, with the tourism industry warmly welcoming Alice Springs and Uluru’s inclusion in the package.
“We’re been doing extremely tough here in Central Australia for the past 12 months and this announcement is certainly the great shot in the arm for our industry”, Tourism Central Australia CEO, Danial Rochford said.
And Mr Rochford isn’t concerned about having to compete with the tourism powerhouse of Queensland.
“We’re not that beach holiday, we are something that is unique and that bucketlist… We’re that international holiday that you just can’t do at the moment.”
While the subsidised flights are a welcome boost, the tourism sector does acknowledge some operators still won’t be able to survive once Jobkeeper ends.
Tourism minister grilled over “dudding” of NSW in airline support package
Australia’s Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has been grilled by 2GB radio host Ben Fordham over a lack of regional NSW destinations offered up as part of the government’s heavily-discounted airfare scheme to boost tourism.
The government estimates it will offer about 800,000 half-price plane tickets to destinations such as the Gold Coast, Cairns, Alice Springs and Launceston.
Despite the scale of the package, there is currently only one route available to NSW under the scheme travelling from Melbourne to Merimbula, compared to 13 to Queensland.
“Nearly all the support is going to Queensland, while NSW appears to be dudded,” Ben Fordham said.
Mr Tehan defended the package, claiming the flights were chosen based on locations hardest hit by international border closures.
“We’ve got to remember some regions, particularly Byron Bay, have done exceptionally well through the pandemic.
“What we’ve done is we’ve had to step in and support those locations which predominantly have international tourist fly to them, which have been incredibly hard hit by this pandemic and which are a distance of three, four or five hours away from a capital city and really need our support.”
The government has warned these may change depending on airline negotiations and demand:
- Adelaide – Gold Coast
- Melbourne – Gold Coast
- Sydney – Gold Coast
- Canberra – Gold Coast
- Avalon – Gold Coast
Tropical North Queensland (Queensland)
- Melbourne – Cairns
- Sydney – Cairns
- Darwin – Cairns
Whitsundays and Mackay region (Queensland)
- Sydney – Proserpine
- Sydney – Hamilton Island
- Sunshine Coast (Queensland)
- Sydney – Maroochydore
- Melbourne – Maroochydore
- Adelaide – Maroochydore
Lasseter and Alice Springs (Northern Territory)
- Adelaide – Alice Springs
- Sydney – Uluru
- Brisbane – Alice Springs
- Melbourne – Alice Springs
- Perth – Alice Springs
- Sydney – Alice Springs
- Brisbane – Uluru
- Melbourne – Uluru
Launceston, Devonport and Burnie (Tasmania)
- Melbourne – Launceston
- Sydney – Launceston
- Brisbane – Launceston
- Melbourne – Devonport
- Melbourne – Burnie
Broome (Western Australia)
- Darwin – Broome
- Sydney – Broome
- Melbourne – Broome
- Gold Coast – Avalon
- Sydney – Avalon
Merimbula (New South Wales)
Kangaroo Island (South Australia)