The head of Tourism NT says the Top End is missing out on its largest tourism markets in the Federal Government’s half price airfare scheme that has seen the promised discounted flights to Darwin only being offered from Townsville.
Tourism NT general manager Tony Quarmby has criticised Senator Sam McMahon’s statement that the origin of visitors to the Top End “doesn’t matter”, as long as they come.
Last week, the federal government’s announcement of the $1.2 billion tourism and aviation support package did not have Darwin initially included in the list of subsidised destinations.
It was later confirmed by Senator McMahon after lobbying through Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack that Darwin has been added to the list.
However, as it stands, Townsville is the only city that would offer the discounted flights to Darwin, according to Ms McMahon.
“There is a lot of traffic between Townsville and Darwin so subsidising that route, giving them half price flights will bring – I mean Townsville is a big city there’s a lot of people there,” she said.
“So, you know, bringing more of them to Darwin will be a good thing. I mean, it really doesn’t matter where people come from as long as they come.”
However, Mr Quarmby said that is not the case.
“If we are to stimulate our holiday visitation numbers then we need larger markets than Townsville to put it plainly,” he told ABC Radio.
Mr Quarmby said on a normal year the largest market for the NT in terms of visitors are Victoria and New South Wales, usually from Melbourne and Sydney, because they’ve got the most population.
Following that are Brisbane and Adelaide, he added.
“So, you know, that’s where we need the flights from, if it’s not coming from, Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, it’s not going to turn the dial for us in terms of leisure visitation,” Mr Quarmby said.
“Going for any other market is not going to make much of a difference on the ground in terms of holiday visitation.
“We would definitely implore both the federal government and the airlines to look at Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, as our core markets in Darwin for this flight subsidy.”
Tourism NT is currently in discussions with both Austrade and with the airlines, Mr Quarmby said.
“But you know when it comes down to the final decision that will be both the Austrade and airlines’ final decision where those flights come in from.”
Mr Quarmby did not provide a timeline as to when Darwin could be given more subsidised destination flights.
The $1.2 billion tourism and aviation support package includes A$200 million of support for Qantas Airways Ltd and Virgin Australia from April to October to help with wages for international flying staff, keeping skills current, maintaining mothballed aircraft and bringing planes out of storage.
“This program allows those people to stay connected with Qantas so we don’t lose them … because when the borders open up, we need the capability to start as many flights as possible,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said.