By JULIUS DENNIS
Alice Springs will be a subsidised destination for tourists from coastal capitals between April and September as part of a Federal government package that aims to deliver domestic tourists to regions ravaged by a lack of international visitors.
The Federal government has promised $1.2b to the scheme that will see Canberra foot half the bill for up to 800,000 tickets.
The package will kick in mere days after JobKeeper payments cease to be an option for struggling tourism operators.
However, the scheme will run on a bookings driven basis, meaning there will be no mandated amount per route or destination. If everyone wants to fly to the Goldcoast for half price, their wish shall be granted.
The airlines, predominantly Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar, have come to an agreement with the government that flights will be available at no more than half the median price, promising no devious activity on the industry’s part.
Flights to Uluru will also be subsidised.
While initially off the list, Darwin has been added as a destination, apparently at the behest of NT Senator Sam McMahon.
Darwin is the only capital city on the list, a move which has been questioned within the tourism industry due to the high amounts of international visitors that usually visit the major cities.
In announcing the package, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the government is “focussed on areas in particular that are heavily dependent on international tourists.”
Only time will tell how much of a draw card half priced tickets are for the Red Centre.
UPDATE 11.45am March 12:
CEO of Tourism Central Australia Danial Rochefort says that while yesterday’s announcement is welcomed, it “was underwhelming for the industry.”
“We have to be realistic, 800,000 seats, when you’re competing against Cairns, the Goldcoast, and now, Darwin and Adelaide. The reality is, we’re not going to see that level of benefit coming to our region.
“The reality is that 800,000 seat allocation will just get absorbed by the biggest centres at the expense of smaller regional centres like Central Australia.”
That said, Mr Rochefort says the Central Australian tourism industry will “put its front foot forward,” and take as much advantage of the situation as it can.
“We’re red, we’re raw, and we’re very different to that beach holiday that Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Goldcoast are going to be promoting. So we should be proud of our difference and yell it from the rooftops.”
Adelaide has now also been added to the list of cities.
Local coach operator Wayne Thompson (pictured) says the initiative is “good” – people arriving by plane quite often book coach tours – but not “what we need”.
He says the priority needs to be to keep in the region tourism staff, from drivers to guides. If they leave and start careers elsewhere, The Centre will be in trouble.
Meanwhile Greyhound Australia CEO Alex de Waal says the Federal Government has signed a death warrant for Australia’s tour bus industry, calling the decision “illogical, discriminatory and anti-competitive.,” he said.
“Greyhound has survived bruised and battered from COVID and we are taking another hit when Jobkeeper ends at the end of the month. But this is the biggest blow of all and it may not be survivable.
“Price is the main competitive advantage buses have over airlines and the Government is wiping it out. There could not be a more lethal dagger aimed at the heart of the industry at the worst possible moment.
“At the very least, the Government should extend the subsidy to regional bus fares.
“Hundreds of regional areas and towns without airports will be cut off from tourism if bus companies go under.”