$45 FARES: Rock-bottom prices to reboot domestic travel
SOUTHERN tourists could be winging their way back to Queensland within weeks on super-cheap airfares below $45 after Scott Morrison flagged a return to domestic tourism as soon as the June school holidays.
In stunning news for the state's lifeblood tourism industry, reeling from billions of dollars in financial losses and massive job cuts, the Prime Minister for the first time provided a timetable to rouse the country from its coronavirus travel coma.
He said it was "possible" domestic travel could restart by the next school holidays, giving long-awaited hope to tens of thousands of Queensland tourism operators and laid-off workers.
It came as Qantas boss Alan Joyce flagged interstate airfares as low as $19 to stimulate travel demand when flying resumes in Australia after the coronavirus crisis has eased.
Jetstar slashed Sydney-Gold Coast fares to $45 in March as the crisis deepened and tourism industry sources said ticket prices to Queensland could be similar or even lower once domestic tourism restarts.
The Courier-Mail understands that the Federal Government plans to launch a domestic tourism campaign to encourage tourists to think about planning a holiday.
Mr Morrison said there would be a "big benefit" from interstate travel "hopefully by the end of term school holiday".
"Already in New South Wales … we are seeing those restrictions about people being able to move and travel a bit further (and) the same is true back in Queensland - that is good. I welcome that.
"That is all part of getting back to the COVID safe economy."
However, Mr Morrison cautioned that premiers could stand in the way of the country being wheels up, because they controlled their own borders.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned Queensland's tough border restrictions are not expected to be eased "anytime soon", with the first step in relaxing travel restrictions likely allowing Queenslanders to travel within their own state.
"Of course we have got to take it one step at a time," she said.
"You lift some restrictions, you examine it for two weeks, and then you can look at lifting further restrictions.
"What it might be first and foremost is it might be Queensland supporting Queenslanders.
"It might be some short term accommodation initially."
Queensland tourism leaders welcomed Mr Morrison's announcement, saying it had given them their first glimmer of hope since the crisis began in January.
"For the first time, the conversation has shifted from being in crisis mode to recovery mode," Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista said.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief Mark Olsen said he had not been expecting interstate travel to restart until the September school holidays but his region was desperate to welcome tourists back.
"We've been working on safety and hygiene plans to make sure everything's in place to welcome visitors back to North Queensland."
Tourism Whitsundays boss Tash Wheeler said local operators were devising discounted five-night holiday packages from as low as $650 and new campaigns were being rolled out to lure domestic tourists back.
"As long as people adhere to and respect the restrictions each step of the way, we're feeling more and more positive," she said.
Queensland tourism leaders will hold a special strategy meeting tomorrow to prepare for the return of domestic tourists. Tourism Minister Kate Jones moved to reassure Queensland's battered tourism businesses that a "back to work" plan will soon be unveiled for the $13 billion industry.
Originally published as $45 FARES: Rock-bottom prices to reboot domestic travel