Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake’s cheeky holiday to Great Barrier Reef and the Otways

If you’re going to see Australia, you need to see it in a big way.

That’s the message from comedian Hamish Blake and his wife Zoe Foster Blake who have teamed up again with Tourism Australia for a new campaign that urges Aussies to plan a “big” extended escape to bring some love back to the regions around Australia.

From beach-hopping to bush-bashing, Australian’s backyard really does have it all.

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In their new ad, which is part of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, the couple showcases some of the “big” ticket items Australia has to offer for a domestic getaway.

While Tourism Australia has found domestic travellers have been shunning cities in favour of regional areas due to health and safety concerns, there has been a surge in shorter, more frequent, trips rather than traditional month-long getaways typically reserved for European summer holidays.

Couple visit incredible spots for ad campaign

The new $9 million ad campaign features the popular duo exploring some of Australia’s most scenic spots, including the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Otways in Victoria, and WA’s Purnululu National Park in the Kimberleys.

“Making this was complete stuff of dreams,” Foster Blake said on her Instagram alongside the new ad.

“My husband and I are the luckiest pigs in Australia getting to shoot (together!) at these breathtaking locations – places we’d always dreamed of visiting … but “never made the time.”

“If you’ve been thinking about – or putting off – a trip to one of Australia’s many epic spots, well, this is your year.”

Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan said the new campaign will hopefully encourage Australians to travel more “further afield”.

“Australians typically spend more overseas than foreign tourists spend in Australia, so we want Australians to treat their domestic holiday this year like an overseas trip,” Mr Tehan said.

“The net impact of Australian tourist spending in Australia was a positive benefit to the economy of around $7.5 billion in the December quarter; and in 2019, holidays of five nights or longer contributed $31.8 billion to the economy.”

Longer holidays better for health and better for businesses

A recent report released by Tourism Australia revealed that Australians need to extend their holidays to be happier, healthier and more productive at work.

Dubbed the ‘Annual (leave) report’, the study showed that while Australians took 29.4 million overnight trips in 2020 – with 82 per cent of those trips being one to four nights – just 18 per cent were five nights or more.

Of those 18 per cent who took a longer break, the respondents noticed they were happier, less irritable and three times less likely to argue with their family, friends or partners. In addition, they were more likely to stick to healthy habits such as good diets and regular exercise programs after a longer holiday.

“With a backyard as vast as ours, Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to epic destinations and holiday experiences,” Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said.

“We have a reef so big you can see it from space, the world’s greatest rock formation, and mountain ranges that dominate over three states and more.

“To make the most of these epic holiday opportunities, we’re urging Australians to take a bigger break of five days or more and explore those parts of the country that are especially reliant on international visitors. Taking a longer break is not only good for our personal wellbeing but also for Australia and the many communities and businesses that rely on tourism.”

The Epic Holidays campaign will be rolled out across a range of channels including TV, print, online, social media, content partnerships, search, radio, cinema and outdoor advertising from today.

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PM Scott Morrison announces half price flights for ‘dream holiday’ Australian destinations

Half-price flights to holiday spots across Australia will be offered within weeks to destinations including Tropical North Queensland and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island under a recovery plan to support the COVID-19 battered tourism industry.

Holiday makers will be able to book the flights from April 1, with the program to initially operate to 13 key regions including; the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce the $1.2 billion support package on Thursday under a plan designed to deliver “a rush of nearly 800,000 tourists to regions hit hard by border closures.

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The flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines.

“This is our ticket to recovery – 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling and supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines who continue to do it tough through COVID-19, while our international borders remain closed” the Prime Minister said.

“This package will take more tourists to our hotels and cafes, taking tours and exploring our backyard. That means more jobs and investment for the tourism and aviation sectors as Australia heads towards winning our fight against COVID-19 and the restrictions that have hurt so many businesses.”

“Our tourism businesses don’t want to rely on government support forever. They want their tourists back. This package, combined with our vaccine rollout which is gathering pace, is part of our National Economic Recovery Plan and the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading.”

The discount fares will be offered on tens of thousands of fares per week across an initial 13 key tourism regions.

“We’re working with airlines to increase the number of flights to these tourism areas – giving travellers the flexibility needed when organising dream holidays to destinations such as Tropical North Queensland and Kangaroo Island,’’ Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said.

“In a big win for local communities, especially in regional Australia, we will continue to financially support flights which are so key to health services, employment opportunities.”

In a replacement of sorts for the JobKeeper wage subsidy program, a new International Aviation Support program will also be unveiled to help Australia’s two international passenger airlines maintain more than 8,000 core international aviation jobs

And for tourism operators currently using the JobKeeper scheme, between 4 Jan and 28 March, a new loan scheme will also be offered to help struggling businesses.

Cheap loans for businesses and direct support to Qantas and regional airlines flying will also be offered in an attempt to support jobs when the JobKeeper payment ends on March 31.

The Morrison Government will also provide cash to support for regular passenger airports to meet their domestic security screening costs.

The cost of training staff, certification and accreditation will also be subsidised to help airlines stand up staff quickly as demand increases.

This will include the reinstalment of domestic aviation security screening cost rebates for more than 50 regular passenger airports.

The existing Small and Medium Enterprises Loan Guarantee Scheme’ will also be extended to provide $40 billion in lending to eligible tourism operators.

Already, 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided but that program will be extended.

In a statement, the Morrison Government said the SME Recovery Loan Scheme will benefit from an increased Government guarantee, increasing from the current 50/50 split between the Government and the banks to an 80/20 split.

This will encourage more banks to support small businesses and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to back those businesses that are prepared to back themselves.

The new scheme will expand the size of eligible loans, increasing from $1 million under the current Scheme to $5 million. Businesses with a higher turnover will also benefit under the expanded Scheme, with the maximum eligible turnover increased from $50 million to $250 million.

The loan terms will also be increased from 5 to 10 years – providing businesses and lenders with greater flexibility and offer borrowers a repayment holiday of up to 24 months.

Eligible businesses can also access the new, expanded scheme to refinance their existing loans.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said more than 350,000 current JobKeeper recipients are expected to be eligible under the expanded Scheme. Loans will be available from 1 April 2021 and must be approved prior to 31 December 2021.

“Our support for the aviation sector will not just keep planes in the air but will also provide a boost to domestic tourism while our international borders remain closed,’’ he said.

“The expansion and extension of the loans will back businesses that back themselves and will help businesses who continue to do it tough build a bridge to the other side of the crisis and keep their staff employed.”

Separately, the $94.6 million Zoos and Aquarium program will be extended by six months to support zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks to maintain their animal populations where their tourism revenue has been affected by travel and social distancing restrictions.

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Aussies called to take a city holiday

To see exactly why Australia is synonymous with an abundance of iconic beaches and natural attractions, head to your local city.

That’s the key message in Tourism Australia’s latest campaign “Holiday Here This Year – City Escapes” to encourage people to book a city break and provide much-needed support to businesses making up the nation’s $152 billion tourism industry.

“Our cities are the key international gateways to Australia and transit hubs for travellers, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been hit the hardest in terms of tourism spend, hotel occupancy and aviation capacity over the past year,” Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said.

“Whether it be long, short or a quick day trip into the city, operators have worked really hard to ensure safety — as well as the ease of flexibility — for travellers.”

Eight in ten Australians say that travel restrictions have made them appreciate better what an amazing state they live in, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph and Tourism Australia.

Meredith Rogers from Clovelly said few cities have as many fabulous beaches and walks as Sydney so take advantage of them.

“We have many great experiences and attractions on offer for people of all ages, so you can have a truly fantastic holiday experience whilst also helping our city to thrive,” she said.

Meanwhile 84 per cent say there are actions that tourism operators could take to give them the confidence to book with them in the next 3-6 months.

This has encouraged hotels to take every step to ensure the wellbeing of their guests, including updating cancellation policies and health and safety protocols.

“Cleanliness has always been a priority and last year we announced enhanced measures and guidelines to give guests and our colleagues even greater confidence,” IHG Hotels & Resorts’ head of operations Ruwan Peiris said.

“InterContinental Sydney Double Bay and Crowne Plaza Sydney Coogee Beach have gone completely pet-friendly as people want to travel with their four-legged friends.”

Mr Peiris said the company now offers ‘Book Now Pay Later’ rates and allows free cancellation up to 72 hours prior to arrival.

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Resort general manager Mark Winterton said the site has benefited, with strong occupancy from locals.

“This not only allows us to keep our doors open and welcome guests safely, but enables us to retain wonderful industry talent through jobs,” he said.

There’s also been a resurgence in coastal and regional holidays.

Lyndel Gray, CEO of Caravan Camping Industry Association of NSW, said caravan parks have experienced an increase in campers.

“Popularity continues to rise and many holiday parks have seen a big increase in nights stayed. RV sales are also doing well with buyer interest at greater than usual levels,” she said,

“All this showcases the popularity of caravan and camping holidays as the perfect way to get out and explore our backyard.”

Reflections Holiday Parks saw an increase in bookings for roofed accommodation across all NSW regions but especially Far North Coast and Manning Great Lakes.

Parks within an easy drive of Sydney, such as Seal Rocks, and Hawkes Nest have also had a significant resurgence in demand.

“Our inland parks have 55 per cent increase in occupancy and more than doubled their camping nights,” Reflections Holiday Parks CEO Steve Edmonds said.

“Our coastal and country parks promise fresh air and relaxation, encourage healthy outdoor activities and support regional townships which have done it tough and struggled through drought, fires and now a pandemic.”

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Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake encourage big city escapes in Tourism Australia campaign

From beach-hopping to bush-bashing, Australians have been enjoying our new-found travel freedom since border restrictions relaxed, but there’s one area we’re criminally overlooking – our big cities.

So travel-loving couple Hamish Blake and Zoe Foster Blake have teamed up again with Tourism Australia for a new campaign that urges Aussies to plan a city escape to bring some love back to the big smoke.

In their new ad campaign, which is part of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, the popular couple showcases what our cities have to offer for your next domestic getaway.

Speaking to news.com.au about the City Escapes campaign and their upcoming travel plans, the pair explained how Australia’s excellent cities leave us spoiled for choice.

“No offence to other countries, but let’s say if you go to America, you’ve got some good capital cities in America but you’ve got some duds. In Australia, we’ve got no duds. If it was up to me, the campaign would be called Australia: No Dud Cities,” Blake said.

“Every capital city is awesome in its own unique way. I do love that so much about Australia. Cities that are smaller, population-wise, are kind of even cooler because they’ve got their own art, culture, food, geography, cool hotels. The cities have boomed.”

“And also whether you’re going with children, or just your partner, or you’re going for nature, or you’re going for shopping – you’ve got all of it,” Foster Blake added. “Art galleries, museums – they’re smashing it.”

The couple said they already had a hit list of cities they planned to go to next with kids Sonny, 6, and Rudy, 3.

“We were just saying we feel embarrassed we haven’t been to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart,” Foster Blake said.

“Our kids like to be a bit free-range and barefooted and feral, so we’ll definitely head to somewhere that affords that sort of environment as well. That might be Perth, or Brissie.”

Blake agreed he was “dying to get back to Perth”.

“I haven’t been for a couple of years and again, I think one of my favourite things about Perth is that it’s that perfect mix between big and small,” he said.

“It’s obviously a big city but it’s spacious, there’s lots of little great pockets and there are amazing beaches.”

Tourism Australia has found domestic travellers have been shunning cities in favour of regional areas due to health and safety concerns.

Spending on overnight trips across Australia fell by $27.1 billion, or 34 per cent, in the year ending September 2020, compared to the previous year.

It has especially been felt in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth.

Hotel occupancy has also taken a dive, with Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart the hardest hit – their occupancy rates have plunged to 33 per cent, 40 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said tourism operators in Australia’s cities were still struggling almost a year after the country’s international borders snapped shut and lockdown restrictions inhibited domestic travel.

“Our cities are the key international gateways to Australia and transit hubs for travellers, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been hit the hardest in terms of tourism spend, hotel occupancy and aviation capacity over the past year,” Ms Harrison said.

“While our international borders remain closed and travel restrictions continue to fluctuate around the country, our cities run the risk of continuing to bear the brunt of this pandemic despite offering so many incredible, safe experiences and being more affordable than ever.

“As part of this campaign we are calling on Australians to help support their fellow Australians by booking a city escape, which in turn will help to support the thousands of city-based hotels, restaurants, bars, cultural attractions and experiences that rely on tourism for their livelihoods.”

As Hamish and Zoe look forward to their next city escape, they admitted there was one thing they’d have to contend with – their very opposing approaches to packing.

“He doesn’t pack until the night before, which gives me hives the morning of,” Foster Blake told news.com.au.

“I pack a week out, constantly curating, editing … and I do the kids’ suitcases as well. That will be our point of tension the night before.”

Blake admitted his packing habits were somewhat chaotic.

“For some reason, even though I know where we’re going and I know the temperature, as soon as I open my wardrobe my brain is filled with wild, 1 per cent contingencies,” he said.

“I’m packing wet weather gear on a whim, maybe three woolly jumpers for a beach holiday.

“Then when I get to the destination … it’s like a theatre sports game where I open up a bag and have no idea what’s in there.”

“But he’ll live in the same pair of shorts for seven days,” Foster Blake laughed.

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