How Aussie workers can maximise annual leave with 2021 public holidays


Most of us get a set amount of annual leave days per year, but with a bit of clever tweaking, we can turn a few days into a good, long stretch of holiday time.

And longer holidays are essential to our health and wellbeing, a new report has found.

A study by Tourism Australia, released today, found Australians who took breaks of more than five nights tended to be more productive at work and less likely to take sick leave.

It also found people who took solid holiday time were generally happier, less irritable, and three times less likely to argue with family and friends. In addition, they generally stuck to healthier diets and exercise habits after longer holidays.

However, Tourism Australia said only 18 per cent of domestic holidays across Australia last year were for five nights or more.

RELATED: Aussie spot that’s become our new Bali

The challenges of COVID-19 were likely a factor in our 2020 holiday habits – before COVID-19 many of us were taking big overseas holidays of three weeks or longer. But now, with much of the country available to visit, tourism bosses are reminding people holidays are more than an indulgence, but essential for wellbeing, work life and our relationships.

“We know that having a stash of annual leave is not a barrier for most – according to our monthly sentiment tracker, only 6 per cent of Aussies (say) they didn’t have enough leave to get away,” Tourism Australia’s chief marketing officer Susan Coghill said.

“While the challenges of travel in the time of COVID continue to be on people’s minds, sentiment is improving. More than half of Aussies have revealed that they’d like to take a

holiday in the next six months.”

In addition to being good for wellbeing, domestic holidays also supported the tourism industry still reeling from COVID-19 lockdowns as well as the 2019-20 bushfires.

“Now, more than ever, tourism operators need your support to fuel Australia’s recovery. And

with a backyard as vast as ours, the holiday possibilities are endless,” Ms Coghill said.

How to maximise annual leave in 2021-22

It’s not always easy to snag five straight days or more off work, but with some clever handling of the 2021-22 calendar, you can turn a few days off into a pretty substantial holiday.

This can be done by taking advantage of weekends and public holidays. Suddenly, three well-placed annual leave days can become a 10-day getaway.

The benefits vary across states and territories, due to public holidays in some places but not others. Here’s how the calendar is shaping up for the rest of this year and into 2022.

New South Wales

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18

Turn another four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Queensland

Turn another four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, May 3 to Friday, May 6

Victoria

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18

Turn another four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Monday, November 1 and Wednesday November 3 to Friday, November 5

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Australian Capital Territory

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 1 to Friday, June 4

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18

Turn four days into nine days: Request off Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Tasmania

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18

Turn two days into five days: Request off Friday, October 22 to Monday, October 25

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

South Australia

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, October 5 to Friday, October 8

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Western Australia

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 6 to Tuesday, June 9

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Northern Territory

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, June 15 to Friday, June 18

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, August 3 to Friday, August 6

Turn three days off into 10 days: Request off Wednesday, December 29 to Friday, December 31

Turn two days off into five days: Request off Monday, January 24 to Tuesday, January 25

Turn four days off into 11 days: Request off Tuesday, April 19 to Friday, April 22

Turn four days off into nine days: Request off Tuesday, May 3 to Friday, May 6



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Booming flight sales over Easter holiday show Aussies are keen to travel again


Record flight sales have shown just how keen Australians were to get away over Easter after being locked down for much of last year in the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism operators across the country are revelling in Easter business that matched 2019 levels as the nation experienced its first major holiday free of closed borders and concerning virus numbers.

But industry figures warn the sector is not out of the woods just yet, with the head of the Australian Tourism and Industry Council saying an improved vaccine rollout was key to a long-term comeback.

Qantas and Virgin saw booming ticket sales in the lead up to the long weekend, while holiday-makers clogged highways out of the major cities as they headed for regional getaways.

Virgin posted its best day of domestic bookings in its 20-year history last Thursday with 71,000 travellers snapping up half-priced flights rolled out by the federal government.

By Monday the airline had sold 128,000 half-price fares – about 49 per cent of its government allocation. Over the weekend routes to the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Hobart, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra were among the busiest.

“Virgin Australia is scheduled to operate 261 services today with many of those flights near full or sold-out which really demonstrates the pent-up demand we’re seeing for Australians to travel for holidays or to reunite with loved ones this Easter,” a spokesman said.

“Typically, this time of the year is one of the busiest travel periods annually and it‘s pleasing to see demand for Virgin Australia services at levels not seen in months.”

Qantas flights between capital city routes – particularly Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – were popular over the weekend, while there was strong demand for trips to Tasmania and Broome in Western Australia.

A Qantas Group spokeswoman said in a statement they had also seen more customers buy cheap tickets for later in the year.

“We are confident that the vaccine rollout will help keep borders open permanently, and buzzing airport terminals over Easter shows that Aussies are ready to travel again,” the statement said.

Queensland’s warm weather was a big drawcard, with capacity on flights to Cairns and the Sunshine Coast actually higher than pre-COVID levels this Easter.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles told media on Monday 75,000 people had jetted into Cairns over the weekend on full flights from Melbourne and Sydney.

“On the Sunshine and Gold Coast, (it was) very busy with Gold Coast airport having its busiest day for arrivals on Thursday, the Gold Coast ranks in the top searches for travel websites, the outback has been really busy as well and so, it’s wonderful that Queenslanders and southerners have supported our tourism regions,” he said.

“Now we just want to make sure we can get everyone back home safely.”

Although it was an undeniably positive weekend, Australian Tourism and Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway warned there was still “some way to go” before the sector could be confident of a return to normal.

“We’re moving back towards 2019 levels in terms if peak holiday period,” he said. “Is it a mirage? To some degree it is.”

Despite the booming numbers this weekend, Mr Westaway said many Australians remain reluctant to travel interstate because of the looming threat of border closures.

Major events are also at the mercy of the virus, and no international tourism means business could slow down once more as Australia heads into winter.

Mr Westaway said governments putting their trust in the vaccine roll out, instead of reverting to snap lock down measures, would be “make or break” for the industry’s ongoing recovery.

“We’ve had a year of this now,” he said. “Border closures should be the last port of call.”



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Greater Brisbane lockdown to lift at midday Thursday


The Greater Brisbane lockdown will be lifted at 12pm on Thursday after Queensland reported one locally acquired case.

Millions of residents in the Sunshine State as well as interstate travellers were anxiously awaiting the decision from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on the eve of the Easter weekend, with holiday plans left in limbo all week.

The decision will offer little respite for tourism operators, however, who say the damage to business since the three-day lockdown was announced earlier in the week has been “really bad”.

RELATED: List of Byron Bay COVID-19 venues grows

Ken Illich, who runs the Brisbane Holiday Village, told ABC News Breakfast his business had lost 48 reservations in the lead up to Easter at a cost of about $40,000.

“And there’s a flow-on effect of that because those people use the restaurant and tours and other things as well,” he said.

An extension of the three-day lockdown, due to expire at 5pm on Thursday, was widely tipped by infectious disease experts but just two new cases on Wednesday with minimal community transmission buoyed the premier and her health team.

“Fingers crossed, all will be looking good for Easter,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters on Wednesday.

“But like I’ve said, it depends on the testing rates again, so if we see very good testing rates across Queensland and we don’t see any underlying community transmission, the signs for Easter are looking positive.”

More to come.



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Coronavirus travel restrictions for each state


Thousands of Australians are cancelling trips to Queensland and tourism operators are bracing for a fresh wave of pain as Brisbane is plunged into a three-day lockdown to combat a local outbreak of COVID-19.

The snap lockdown, which began last night, prompted states and territories to quickly shut borders with either Greater Brisbane or all of Queensland days out from the Easter long weekend.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed eight new locally virus cases on Tuesday, with two active clusters.

Airlines, accommodation providers and tourism operators are being swamped with cancellations as holiday-makers heading to the Sunshine State scramble to change plans.

RELATED: How the lockdown will affect Easter travel

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Flight Centre boss Graham Turner reacted angrily to Ms Palaszczuk’s lockdown announcement on Monday, blasting it as “sheer lunacy” that could cost the tourism industry up to $2 billion.

“Locking Brisbane down will have a short-range three-day ­effect,” he told the Courier Mail.

“It will cost $1 billion to $2 billion, but the impact will last longer, and just as domestic travel was coming back.”

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the lockdown was an “unbelievable blow” that could be felt well beyond Easter.

“Consumer confidence will take an immediate hit, with interstate travellers reconsidering travel to Queensland,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

“It’s not just Brisbane – destinations like the Gold and Sunshine coasts will be severely impacted this week, and possibly beyond.

“Even if the lockdown ends in three days, the damage will be long-lasting. This couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

Holiday cancellations are expected to be particularly painful for operators in tourism-reliant regions of Queensland that had been banking on a rush of domestic tourists while international borders remained closed.

Cairns Adventure Group director Roderic Rees told the ABC while he understood the health concerns, the timing of the lockdown “couldn’t be worse”.

“The phone’s been ringing hot since the announcement … we had one point where we had all our lines on the go, all doing cancellations simultaneously,” he said.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth to us up here.”

Destination Gold Coast chief executive Patricia O’Callaghan said the industry was feeling anxious after a positive lead-up to the Easter travel season.

“(It’s) quite heartbreaking in terms of the timing, but this isn’t the first time we have been down this path before,” Ms O’Callaghan told ABC News Breakfast.

“Hopefully we can get through the next three days as quickly as possible and see the travel restrictions ease for Easter.”

While many of the fresh border closures applied only to the Greater Brisbane area, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged residents in her state to rethink their Easter travel plans if they were travelling “anywhere in Queensland”.

Ms O’Callaghan said regions like the Gold Coast were relying on Australians hanging onto their bookings.

“We need you right now,” she said. “We’re a $5.9 billion industry. One in six jobs on the Gold Coast rely on tourism. We need visitors. Especially during that Easter period. So, hold onto those bookings. We know you want to come here.

“Let’s get through the next three days.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the three-day lockdown on Monday as an outbreak in Brisbane grew.

During the lockdown, residents in Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redlands will not be able to leave their homes except for food, exercise, essential work and medical reasons.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown was tough but necessary as the new cases were the highly infectious UK strain.

“We‘ve seen what’s happened in other countries. I don’t want to see that happen to Queensland. I don’t want to see that happen to Australia. I know in is a really big call. I know it is really tough,” she on Monday.

“We have Easter coming up, we have school holidays coming up, but let’s do it now and let’s do it right and let’s see if we can come through it at the other end.”



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Travel vouchers of $200 released to public


The final allocation of 50,000 $200 vouchers for travel in regional Victoria has been exhausted within just three minutes after being released to the public.

It comes after previous allocations have been snapped up by holiday-hungry Victorians within just minutes after the Andrews government launched the initiative to reinvigorate the state’s tourism industry.

The new allocation meant 200,000 travel vouchers for $200 had been taken up by Victorians, including 40,000 vouchers for travel in Metropolitan Melbourne currently in circulation.

To access the vouchers, visitors must spend $400 or more on accommodation, attractions or experiences and a minimum of two nights in paid accommodation.

Victorians took to Twitter to express their anger at the vouchers being sold out within minutes after 10am.

“I got on the computer to apply for a Victorian travel voucher at 10:01am. By the time I had filled the form out and clicked ‘apply’ at 10:04am they had sold out,” Katherine said.

Another Twitter user encountered an “allocation exhausted” notification after just four minutes.

Applications were open to Victorian residents aged 18 and older, with households limited to one voucher from each of the Melbourne and regional travel voucher schemes.

More than 150,000 vouchers valued at $200, have been snapped up during the first three rounds of the scheme, including 40,000 vouchers valid for travel up to April 1.

Vouchers snapped up today were available for use from April 6 to May 31.

Vouchers were limited to one per household.

Acting Minister for Tourism Jaala Pulford praised Victorians’ enthusiasm to snap up the vouchers.

“It’s fantastic that so many people want to explore their state and support the businesses and workers that make Victoria the best place in the country to visit,” she said.

“We know that our famous holiday destinations will be busy over Easter – these vouchers will help to ensure that demand stays high across April and May.”



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State border closures, restrictions after COVID outbreak


Millions of Australians have had their Easter plans thrown into chaos, wreaking havoc on an already struggling Queensland tourism sector.

Holidays are now up the air or have had to be cancelled after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday announced Greater Brisbane would enter a snap, three-day lockdown from 5pm.

The state recorded an alarming 10 new cases in the 24 hours to Monday morning.

While six were acquired overseas, four were the result of community transmission and were all the highly contagious UK variant.

Two of the cases are linked to the latest cluster, but health authorities are scrambling to work out how two other people contracted the virus.

Ms Palaszczuk has declared Greater Brisbane a hotspot and urged premiers from other states across the country to do the same thing.

The West Australian government was quick to change its border rules with Queensland, implementing new control orders on Saturday, almost 48 hours before the lockdown was announced.

Anyone who arrived in the state from 12.01am on Saturday, March 27, now needs to complete 14 days of self-quarantine and present for testing.

Tasmania updated its public health advice on Monday after news of the lockdown broke.

Anyone who has travelled to the Greater Brisbane local government areas in the past 14 days is now no longer permitted to enter the state unless they are classified as an essential traveller.

South Australian premier Steven Marshall quickly followed suit, declaring no one from the Greater Brisbane area would be allowed into the state from 4pm on Monday.

Essential workers, South Australian residents and people relocating permanently for work will be permitted but will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Mr Marshall said he wasn’t happy about instituting a hard border and it would come down as soon as was safe.

“We know this is going to be a huge inconvenience to people particularly in the lead-up to this Easter period,” he said.

Victoria has so far kept its border open to the Sunshine State, instead changing its classification of Greater Brisbane to that of an “orange zone”, meaning people must get tested within three days of their arrival and isolate until they get the results.

Queenslanders and people returning home to NSW are still permitted to enter the state, provided they have not visited one of the venues exposed to COVID-19.

Anyone trying to enter the state who has been in the Greater Brisbane area from March 27 is also required to complete a declaration form.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is expected to provide another update on Monday afternoon.

One in seven people were expected to travel to the Sunshine State over the next month.

The Tourism and Events Queensland data predicted more than 3.5 million Australians would make their way across the border, injecting $1bn into the economy.



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Peter Dutton and Richard Marles clash over government plan


Peter Dutton has accused deputy Labor leader Richard Marles of “drinking last night” in a lighthearted clash over the government’s tourism support package.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled the federal government’s post-JobKeeper plan for the tourism sector, centred on 800,000 half-price airfare tickets on selected routes.

But some tourism operators argue the package does little to support them. Mr Morrison was also forced to deny politicising the package, with many of the support areas in marginal or winnable seats.

Mr Marles described the package as a “lemon”, saying it would not alleviate job losses brought on by the end of JobKeeper later this month.

“Half-price tickets to marginal electorates, that’s fine,” he told Today.

“But there are so many tourist operators who are struggling with the fact that there is the necessary closure of our international borders.

RELATED: Federal government to offer 800,000 half-price flights in billion-dollar tourism boost

“The tourist sector has been looking to this for weeks now to see what the answer was going to be. What they have got here is a lemon.”

But Mr Dutton described the suggestion the money was allocated on political grounds as “almost defamatory”.

“I’m looking forward to Peter suing me for that comment,” Mr Marles replied.

“Richard has been drinking last night again,” Mr Dutton said.

“Now that’s defamatory!” the deputy Labor leader replied.

“I’ll see you in court. I’m there at 9am,” Mr Dutton said.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce welcomed the package, which also included support for international crews to help keep them afloat until international borders reopened.

But Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner on Thursday warned most tourism operators would be left without assistance.

He claimed destinations across north Queensland were mainly reliant on international tourism, saying a boost in domestic numbers would be unable to replace losses from the international market.

“This really is targeted to the aviation industry and maybe some tourist destinations … it certainly does not help us at all,” he said.

But Mr Morrison said the package would have a major flow-on benefit to tourism operators and businesses in areas with an influx of domestic tourism.

He said Qantas would begin working tourism operators on travel packages once the tickets were in circulation.

“The 50 per cent discount on the airfare gets combined with a hotel deal, a tour out on the Reef or wherever you happen to go,” he said.

“(They) package it up. That’s how the travel industry works, and they’re very, very good at it.”



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How to get 40,000 $200 allocations released at 10am Friday


In just a matter of hours those hoping to snap up a $200 Melbourne travel voucher will be able to apply online.

But they won’t be around for long if the state government’s previous travel voucher schemes are anything to go by.

When the regional travel vouchers were last available, allocations were exhausted within 30 minutes, and when the scheme first launched last year the website crashed.

Tourist Minister Martin Pakula said applications for the $200 vouchers for Victorians to visit and stay in Melbourne would open at 10am on Friday.

There will be 40,000 vouchers available valid for travel in an eight-week window from March 19 to May 16.

Successful applicants will be able to use their for travel in 26 local government areas across greater Melbourne.

But some of the most popular destinations – the Yarra Valley, Dandenong Ranges, Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula – have been excluded as they are part of the regional scheme.

To access the vouchers, visitors must spend $400 or more on accommodation, attractions or experiences, and must spend a minimum of two nights in paid accommodation.

Applications are open to Victorian residents aged 18 and older with households limited to one voucher from each of the Melbourne and regional travel voucher schemes.

More than 110,000 vouchers valued at $200 were snapped up in the first two rounds of the scheme, including 40,000 vouchers currently valid for travel up to April 1.

The state government said 52,000 travellers spent an estimated $85 million across Victoria under the first round of the regional scheme.

“These vouchers will deliver a significant boost to tourism operators and will mean even more people have the chance to experience the best of Melbourne,” Mr Foley said.

“Whether it’s a staycation or a visit from regional Victoria, there’s never been a better time to lose yourself in marvellous Melbourne.”

Registrations for another 50,000 vouchers available in the third round of the regional travel voucher scheme will open on March 30.

For more information on the Melbourne travel voucher scheme and to apply on Friday, go to vic.gov.au/melbourne-travel-voucher-scheme.



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Is this the end of Australia’s COVID border closures?


A $1.2 billion program encouraging Australians to travel interstate won’t necessarily mark the end of border shutdowns, a tourism expert warns.

Some 800,000 half-price airfares to holiday hot spots offered to Australian travellers in a billion-dollar federal government bid to revive the nation’s struggling tourism industry.

The discount will initially apply to interstate flights to 13 key regions, including tourism-dependent parts of Queensland and Western Australia, where notoriously strict border rules hit particularly hard.

Despite the massive investment in encouraging Australians to holiday interstate, tourism expert Dr David Beirman said he didn’t think the days of border closures were necessarily behind us.

“It would be nice to think that this package will signal the end to state border closures. Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic and state government responses to it have a life of their own,” Dr Beirman, from the University of Technology, Sydney, told news.com.au.

“While the expansion of the vaccination rollout is likely to reduce the spread of the pandemic in Australia there is no guarantee that individual states will cease border closures or quarantine regulations in the event of a renewed outbreak.”

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Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick told ABC Radio National this morning the state reserved the right to shut its borders if necessary.

“We will act on the health advice,” he said. “Tthat’s been consistent the position we’ve taken all along and of course that was endorsed by the people of Queensland in the election last October.”

As intra-state flights weren’t included in the package, states that shut their borders would effectively be opting out.

Dr Beirman said he hoped the heavy presence of Queensland destinations on the discounted flight list, including the Gold Coast, Cairns, Whitsundays and Sunshine Coast, might encourage the state to keep itself open.

“As we have seen, several states, notably Queensland and Western Australia, have been very quick on the border closure trigger when an outbreak has occurred,” he said.

“However, the travel stimulus applying to key tourism destinations in Queensland especially may lead the Queensland government to take a more considered approach to lockdowns and border closures.

“Interstate travel needs more stimulus and rebuilding of confidence than intrastate travel, largely due to the disruptive impact of sudden border closures.”

Qantas boss Alan Joyce said he believed the scheme would be “an incentive for the states to keep their borders open”.

“And that’s important, because we can’t keep on going through the yoyo of the ups and downs of that,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the federal stimulus package a “ticket to recovery”, saying it would “take more tourists to 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,” Mr Morrison said today.

The package has been welcomed by Virgin Australia and the Qantas Group, which said it would bring more domestic crew to return to the skies after domestic air travel was derailed by the pandemic.

But the scheme has also attracted criticism, including from Flight Centre boss Graham Turner, who said it would mean little to tourism operators who were not on the selected flight routes.

He also questioned how effective the scheme would be in regions that were on the list but which relied heavily on international visitors, such as Far North Queensland.

“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.”

ACCOR chief executive Simon McGrath said the scheme ignored the nation’s big cities, which accounted for 60 per cent of the nation’s hotel accommodation.

“The reality is we’ve got 60 per cent of hotel stock in Australia in the CBD locations and the cities are operating around 20 or 30 per cent occupancy, so it pushes the travel out from those cities and does not address that major issue,” he said.

Dr Beirman said he believed the benefits of the scheme would filter down to accommodation, attraction and retail sectors in the targeted destinations, but felt much of the nation’s struggling tourism industry had been overlooked.

“While those destinations which are included will have good reason to be happy about the development, many popular Australian regional tourism destinations miss out,” he said.

“The stimulus measures are a welcome development but they are effectively a bandaid treatment to an all-of-tourism-industry problem.

“Until international tourism to and from Australia resumes it will be a case of tourism limping along until international borders re-open.”



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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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