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Queensland Regional Tourism Network launch ‘Keep the Air Fair’ campaign to encourage airline diversity

April 21, 2020 South Pacific News No Comments
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The Queensland Regional Tourism Network is launching a ‘Keep the Air Fair’ campaign to ensure that the future of regional destinations isn’t threatened by a reduction in air services in a post Covid-19 tourism landscape.

A statement by Queensland Regional Tourism Network Chair, Simon Latchford:
Airline connectivity is a critical part of Australia’s economy in creating national and global commercial opportunities, partnerships and facilitating trade.

The arrival of Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on Australia’s aviation sector, and as a result, threatens the current viability and future recovery of tourism across Queensland’s regional landscape.

The announcement of a short-term assistance package by the Federal Government to support an expansion of Qantas and Virgin air services is encouraging, as have been the expressions of interest by Queensland and other state governments to support Virgin’s retention. However, despite all the positive talk, Virgin’s future remains clouded.

A monopolised sector benefits no one. A competitive airline sector must be maintained if Queensland – and most Australian – regional destinations are to recover.

In 2019, prior to Covid-19, the 13 Queensland regional tourism bodies supported a $25.5 billion industry, comprising 57,000 businesses and 236,000 people. For many regions, tourism has become the primary industry, supporting far wider community and economic development.

Aviation and tourism have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. The Queensland Regional Tourism Group acknowledges the great efforts made by all levels of Government to provide stimulus packages and relief measures for small businesses across Queensland and the whole of Australia.

However, that should not obscure the specific challenges that the tourism industry will face over the short and longer terms, with international and interstate markets effectively cut-off by government bans and restrictions.

The tourism industry understands the complexities associated with governments supporting a specific industry sector, but the demise of Ansett taught us many lessons that must never be forgotten, the most crucial of which is the importance of maintaining a multi-airline structure in Australia and having a truly competitive aviation environment.

The demise of Ansett saw the loss of many regional routes, which in turn stymied regional tourism development and investment. That can’t happen again.

Once the virus has been constrained to an acceptable levels that will see our borders re-opened, we will require suitable and sufficient infrastructure in place, immediately deployable, in order to ensure tourism and business can recover quickly and for the long term.

Aviation is without doubt the lifeblood of the tourism industry and connector of business, freight and development.

We urge Federal and State Governments to consider the future of Virgin Airways as a matter of urgency, so that a competitive aviation sector is retained, and in doing so, supports one of the most significant industries and job generators in Queensland and Australia.

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