The Australian government has unveiled a AUD$1.2 billion support package for the tourism and aviation sector, including half-price domestic airline tickets to encourage citizens to return to travel.

The government said that “Australia’s airlines, hotels and caravan parks, restaurants and bars, travel agents and tourism operators are set for a rush of hundreds of thousands of tourists” as a result of the initiative, which will see 800,00 half-price tickets being offered to 13 “key regions”, including:

The Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays (pictured above) and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island.

The government said that exact flights, routes and the total of number of tickets “will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines”, with discounts expected to be available on airline websites from April 1.

In a statement the government said that “while Australia’s economy had recovered 85 per cent of its fall from Covid-19, the next step in the Government’s National Economic Recovery Plan would target the businesses, workers and regions still doing it tough”.

Other measures will include cheap loans for businesses, and direct support to keep planes in the air and airline workers in their jobs.

There will be support for airports to meet their domestic security screening costs, and an extension of a 50 per cent waiver of domestic air services charges for Regular Public Transport (RPT) and aeromedical flights.

A new Aviation Services Assistance Support Programme will also help ground-handling companies meet the costs of mandatory training, certification and accreditation “to ensure they maintain their workforces so they can stand them back up when the market expands again”.

Announcing the package Prime Minister Scott Morrison said:

“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.

“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 roll-out which is gathering pace, is part of our National Economic Recovery Plan and the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading.”