Visitor incentives – Island winter travel backed

KING Island businesses remain hopeful of additional and immediate Government support after a travel incentive package was unveiled to encourage visitation during the winter months.

The Government belatedly announced a travel scheme at the weekend designed to compensate visitors to King Island by providing up to $300 towards the cost of accommodation and experiences between May 1 and July 31 this year.

The reimbursement will be available to 700 bookings. Sharp Airlines will also be introducing $300 per person fares between Hobart and King Island for a limited number of seats on its three weekly services.

This special fare will also operate between May and the end of July.

The incentives are in response to concerns over mass cancellations and a decline in tourist numbers following a Government issued travel advisory urging people to stay away during the island’s Covid-19 breakout earlier this year.

While the package of incentives was welcomed, there are still concerns it doesn’t go far enough.

Others are angry the airfares apply only to Hobart based travellers and not to those in Launceston or on the North West Coast.

King Island Mayor Julie Arnold said the incentives were the result of discussions with several Government ministers and she believed there would be further consideration around Launceston flights this week.

“We knew that we definitely wanted something more,” Ms Arnold said.
“A number of things that are there were requested.
“We asked for more, more vouchers and more on the air fares.”

The Government says Business Tasmania officers will visit the island within the next fortnight to explore ways that further support might be provided to businesses impacted by the downturn.

“I’m hopeful that maybe from those discussions which are supposed to happen within a fortnight or so, there may be more for individual operators,” Ms Arnold said.
“We need to be grateful for what has happened.

There are only 700 vouchers but that’s $200,000 invested in the community.”

Details around the distribution of the discounted airfares and what the travel vouchers can be used for, given King Island has limited “tours” or “experiences” are yet to be outlined.

Ms Arnold said while bookings for March and April were fairly strong and the incentives for May, June and July would encourage more visitors, it didn’t solve all the problems.

“None of that is going to replace the almost months of totally lost income.”

Residents waiting to fly home to King Island from Launceston on Saturday were frustrated the Government’s media announcement at the Sharp Airlines terminal delayed their flight.

“Plane and passenger were ready to go but instead had to wait for the suit army to turn up and deliver the sugar-coated bull dust which resulted in an hour delay to the service,” Glenn Batey posted on social media.

Several others noted the incentives should accommodate those wanting to fly from Wynyard or Launceston.

“Why only flights from the south?” asked Andrew O’Connor.

“Only Hobart, not bothered about the North West,” Peta Parnell said.

“What about the people from the North of Tas? Costs a bloody arm and a leg wherever you’re from in Tassie,” Sandra de Jonge said.

King Island Tourism president Adam Hely welcomed the government’s support package.

“We went in with our list and it’s marvellous that the Government has responded to incentivise travel to King Island in the winter season,” Mr Hely said.
“There are details which need to be known and there are ongoing talks regarding airfares from Launceston.
“We are hoping that King Island Tourism will be involved in the voucher distribution process.
“Businesses have lost earnings but supporting the shoulder and off seasons may make up some of these losses.”

Tourism Minister Guy Barnett acknowledged that King Island businesses had done it tough.

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