Queenslanders miss out on discounted flights to local tourist towns

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Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick has criticised the Commonwealth stimulus package to halve the price of flights, saying Queenslanders will not be supported to travel within their own state.

The federal government announced late last night that there would be discounted flights for 13 regions, that normally rely heavily on international travellers.

People from outside Queensland will be able to get the cheap flights, between April and July, to the Whitsundays, Cairns, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

People flying from Brisbane airport will be offered the discount on flights to Launceston, Alice Springs and Uluru.

Mr Dick acknowledged the scheme would contribute to supporting jobs and welcomed more interstate travellers into Queensland.

But he questioned why the discounted flights would not apply to south-east Queenslanders wanting to travel locally.

“Seriously, there are some dead-set head scratchers in this that seem bizarre,” Mr Dick said.

“Like, why can’t Queenslanders be supported to travel to Queensland? Queenslanders want to back Queensland.

“That’s why our economy is coming back and leading the pack nationally.

“People in Brisbane and in the south east want to go to Cairns but this scheme says no.

“Instead, we have to go to places like Launceston.”

Heart Reef in the Whitsundays.
Heart Reef in the Whitsundays. (Supplied: Whitsunday Tourism )

‘It’s not an easy fix’

Gold Coast travel agent Annie Thomsen-Ajayi said industry workers had mixed feelings about the package.

She said it was not well targeted, and the biggest issue facing the industry was the lack of certainty with border closures.

“The majority of our clients have got credits with airlines already … there’s thousands and thousands of dollars in credit, so a cheap airfare, why would they do it?” she said.

“I understand it’s not an easy fix, but the lack of certainty is really what’s the biggest problem at the moment.

“In all good faith, can we be promoting things to our clients if we don’t know for sure they can travel or not?”

An aerial shot of two people snorkelling in clear blue water on a beach.
Wilson Island is part of the Southern Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Gladstone. (Supplied: Wilson Island )

Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) chief executive Daniel Gschwind said while the package was good news for the airlines, it could be a long wait for any benefits to trickle through to tourism operators.

“It remains to be seen how that will come through to them, how the benefits will flow through to them they’re in urgent need of this and we’re a little bit concerned that it may take a bit too long for them,” Mr Gschwind told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“Our main concern always has been to support the business who need to keep their jobs in place for their staff and that’s not entirely clear how it will work and how quickly it will work.”

Federal Liberal MP for Moncrieff Angie Bell said the package was designed to support airlines in preparation for international tourism, which was due to resume in October.

“It’s very important that we have our national airlines in place … to make sure that they are there when international travel resumes,” Ms Bell said.

Photo of shells on the beach and the ocean off Hayman Island
Cheap flights will be offered to the Whitsundays. (Daniel Battley )

Despite criticism that the package supported only a few, Ms Bell said Gold Coast businesses would benefit from the potential increased visitor numbers.

Queensland Airports chief executive Chris Mills said last year there were 45 days with no flights into the Gold Coast airport.

“The federal government has seen very clearly that the Gold Coast is in need of help,” Mr Mills said.

“It’s great to stimulate activity but for real confidence to return, we need that certainty that borders aren’t going to close again.”

Should Queenslanders and all Australians be supported to travel within their own state?

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