Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner has hit back at the Federal Government’s aviation package, saying the assistance measure will have little impact on a sector still flailing from the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking after the Morrison Government announced half-price flights to more than 13 destinations in Australia, the major travel agent group warned the bulk of operators were likely to not benefit from the discounted tickets.
The scheme is designed to support the domestic tourism industry while international borders remain closed by offering 800,000 reduced tickets to places such as Broome, Cairns, the Gold Coast, Launceston and Alice Springs.
Mr Turner said the package only supported the airlines and would be meaningless for tourism operators not on the targeted flight routes.
He warned destinations such as Cairns and far north Queensland relied primarily on international tourism and believes an increase in domestic numbers cannot fill the void of the collapsed overseas market.
“I am not sure this will make much of a difference to them,” Mr Turner said.
“This really is targeted to the aviation industry and maybe some tourist destinations … it certainly does not help us at all.”
Mr Turner said an early opening of international borders once the vulnerable had been vaccinated was the only real solution for the tourism sector to resume some form of normal operations.
Mr Turner believes this date would likely be June or July.
He also said keeping domestic borders open in the meantime was imperative.
“Domestic tourism just can’t replace international travel,” he said.
The aviation package also ties in with an extension of the coronavirus SME guarantee scheme.
Mr Turner said travel operators were already “up to their eyeballs in the debt” and might not be in a position to take on another loan.
He believes the $1.2 billion package needs to be extended to capital cities and the tickets should only be sold through travel agents.