Tourism in Northern Tasmania is set to be flying high as one of the major winners from the federal government's tourism stimulus package, announced on Thursday.
The federal government announced 800,000 subsidised flights would be made available as part of a $1.2 billion dollar tourism package.
The subsidy has received universal support from those within the Tasmanian tourist industry, which is hoping to see an influx of mainland tourists in the coming months.
The timing has also been welcomed as JobKeeper, which is still being relied upon by businesses within the sector for support, is wound back at the end of the month.
Launceston Airport chief executive Hans van Pelt said that the announcement would boost flight bookings which were already increasing in recent months.
"We know there's plenty of pent-up demand to fly and this latest incentive will help drive bookings which will have enormous flow on effects from the airport right through to local tourism operators," he said.
"Forward bookings are generally starting to increase, now we just need borders to remain open so traveller confidence can rebuild throughout the year."
Launceston, Devonport and Burnie are three of the 13 locations available as part of the cheap flights subsidy. The locations were chosen due to their local tourism industry's reliance on international travel, which is currently not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The flights become available from April 1 to the end of July and is available to any airlines which have flown regular flights to any of the 13 nominated locations during the past two years.
Blue Derby Pods Ride founder Tara Howell said the move would be a major support to local tourism businesses given JobKeeper would end soon.
"It's going to help our business dramatically. It's coming at a time where usually the tourism industry dips, it's winter, it's the lowest point of our year ... right now with JobKeeper finishing, we needed an extra boost," she said.
"It's going to extend our season, it's going to open up winter for us, so for the tourism industry and our business personally, we're really excited by this."
Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin labelled the announcement a "shot in the arm" for local tourism.
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'We need a soft landing as Job Keeper ends and further stimulus to kick start Australian domestic tourism is the best way to support all businesses across our visitor economy," he said.
"Right now, what we need are open domestic borders and the consumer confidence to travel, and I'm sure these discounted flights are going to be a welcome shot in the arm."
Launceston Chamber of Commerce executive officer David Peachy said that the move came at a critical time, but support could be offered to further industries, like the hospitality industry which also relied on the JobKeeper subsidy.
"It's absolutely awesome we're one of the 13 locations, I worry that airports and airline industry and tourism are going to go okay but what about hospitality for example?" he said.
"There's nothing in there for restaurants which are really heavily affected by space limitations and head counts, that there's nothing in there for them so there's still a few people hanging in the wind I think."
"Those three northern airports are where we want to see people coming into so they can have a share of the growing tourism trade."- Industry development assistant minister Jonno Dunaim
Industry development assistant minister Jonno Duniam refuted suggestions that the initiative could be a potential "COVID spreader" event with tourists from the mainland expected to influx Tasmania.
"I have every faith in what the Tasmanian government has done with screening procedures at the border, I have gone through those borders many times in the last few months ... I have every faith they have the capacity to deal with it," he said.
Mr Duniam said the package is comprehensive support for the tourism industry given the additional subsidised travel on the Spirit of Tasmania.
"Tasmanians will be flying interstate but we'll be more than making up for it with the incentive on the spirit of Tasmania and the extra support of half-priced airfares."
Lyons Liberal MP Guy Barnett dispelled suggestions that the plan would leave Hobart shortchanged after the city missed out on being included in the subsidised airfares initiative.
"It is fair to say, the vast bulk of those who fly into our northern airport do travel to Hobart and they travel around the state. The entire state will benefit from this particularly the north and north-west," he said.
Mr Duniam said the decision to exclude Hobart and focus on Northern Tasmania was a matter of sharing the tourism dollar rather than boosting the Liberal party's popularity in those areas.
"This is about targeting regional communities that need support, the growth we have seen with the return of aviation visitors to Tasmania has predominantly been to our main airport in southern Tasmania in Hobart," he said.
"Those three northern airports are where we want to see people coming into so they can have a share of the growing tourism trade."
Additionally, the federal government also announced the extension of the $50 million business events grants program and $94.6 million zoos and aquarium program by three months and six months respectively.
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