The federal government's new $1.2 billion aviation and tourism support program will mean half-price flights to Kangaroo Island.
The federal government says the package will provide direct support to domestic and international aviation networks to keep planes in the air, as well as supporting tourism operators and accommodation providers.
The package only applies to 13 regional airports, no others in South Australia.
The Kangaroo Island Council meanwhile this week said it was confident Qantas would be able to service Kangaroo Island's needs after Rex pulled out of the route last week.
Kangaroo Island Tourism Alliance chairman Pierre Gregor welcomed the news of half-price flights.
"This will be particularly helpful in attracting the interstate market during what is traditionally a period of lower visitation and in particular will assist tour and hire car operators who have been doing it really tough," Mr Gregor said.
"This together with other initiatives that KITA will be actively pursuing can only help drive demand and increase visitation and the associated economic activity on the Island."
Senator for South Australia Andrew McLachlan welcomed the funding and said the announcement marked a significant milestone for tourism on Kangaroo Island.
"Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia's most desirable holiday destinations, offering some of the most pristine beaches, native wildlife, culinary experiences and picturesque scenery," Mr McLachlan said.
"We know this beautiful part of our state has faced many challenges in recent times between devastating bushfires, immediately followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"That is why this initiative is an incredibly important step in rebuilding the local economy and instilling confidence back into our aviation and tourism sector."
Discounted airfares will initially operate across 13 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.
Flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines.
"The 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling and supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines will be available to purchase from April 1," Mr McLachlan said.
The Greens however say the tourism package will not prevent mass job losses once JobKeeper is cut at the end of the month.
SA Senator and Greens tourism spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said half-price airfares to 13 destinations for four months would not save Australia's tourism industry.
"The tourism industry has been pleading with the government to extend JobKeeper, a vital support to businesses beyond just the aviation giants, and they've been ignored," she said.
"This enormous wad of taxpayer funds will not save jobs, it will cost jobs.
"The only people taking these flights will be those who can afford a holiday. Many Australians cannot afford a $60 flight to the Gold Coast let alone, accommodation, food and experiences once they arrive.
"The only way to ensure the industry survives is with a wage subsidy, otherwise this is just a ticket to nowhere for tourism."
Other new measures in the support package include:
- New International Aviation Support to help Australia's two international passenger airlines maintain more than 8,000 core international aviation jobs
- Support for regular passenger airports to meet their domestic security screening costs
- A new Aviation Services Assistance Support Program to 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.
- The re-instalment of domestic aviation security screening cost rebates for more than 50 regular passenger airports
The federal government will expand and extend its 'SME Loan Guarantee Scheme' as part of its commitment to support up to $40 billion in lending to small and medium enterprises.
Under the existing scheme, more than 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided.
More than 350,000 current JobKeeper recipients are expected to be eligible under the expanded scheme. Loans will be available from April 1 and must be approved prior to December 31.
The federal government has also extended the following programs to 30 September 2021:
- the successful Domestic Aviation Network Support (DANS) and Regional Aviation Network Support (RANS) programs
- the 50 per cent waiver of domestic air services charges for Regular Public Transport (RPT) and aeromedical flights
- the International Freight Assistance Mechanism.
The $50 million Business Events Grants Program will also be extended by three months to support Australian businesses to hold multi-day business events, covering up to 50 per cent of costs incurred in participating business events during the 2021 calendar year.
The COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program will also be extended for three months beyond March 13.