When Bundaberg was left out of the Federal Government’s $1.2 billion airline support package Mayor Jack Dempsey said he thought it was an “April Fool’s joke”.
The support package, set to go on sale from April 1, 2021, offers travellers discounted airfares to specified locations.
With the Bundaberg Region’s tourism credentials as the home of internationally renowned attractions and the gateway to the southern Great Barrier Reef, Mayor Dempsey said it was an unacceptable oversight.
“I thought it was an early April Fool’s joke when I heard that Bundaberg was excluded from the list of destinations to benefit from half-price airfares,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“The Federal Government shouldn’t be picking winners when it comes to stimulating travel and tourism.”
He said residents shouldn’t have to travel to Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast to be able to take advantage of the discounted fares in the airline support package.
“Our local community here want to be able to get to Brisbane to be able to support their fellow Queenslanders and other Australians.
“It could have been thought out better to get the best bang for buck for all Queenlsanders, including those here in Bundaberg.”
Local tourism operators will also be disadvantaged by the decision, according to the Mayor.
“We have tourism operators here locally that have invested millions of dollars to increase their infrastructure and be ready for the COVID recovery.
“To not even be included to have access from Brisbane to Bundaberg certainly is a slap in the face for those operators who have backed themselves and backed the community but also backed the tourism industry to be able to facilitate jobs and economic growth throughout this region.”
Lady Musgrave Experience managing director Brett Lakey said pre-COVID a minimum of 40 per cent of his business was from international travellers, a market which is now unavailable.
He said Bundaberg’s inclusion on the list of discounted airfare destinations would have been a welcome boost.
“[It] would allow a lot of people in that South East Queensland market to be able to take up on a short flight and a close travel destination,” Brett said.
“It would create more benefit if the general public could choose to travel to a broader set of destinations.”
Brett said with more residents travelling intrastate post-pandemic the state’s south east corner was more aware that the Great Barrier Reef can be accessed from the Bundaberg Region.
He believes that awareness would have been increased through a discounted airfares promotion for the region, with the potential to boost the wider economy.
“The flow on effect for all the other tourism operators and food tours, it’s a great destination for that weekend getaway.
“We’re only a few weeks to a month away from launching our pontoon which gives another strong incentive for people to come and experience a brand new facility.”
Mayor Dempsey is now calling on the Federal Government to have Bundaberg included on the list of destinations for discounted travel in its airline support package.
“There should be a level playing field for Australians to experience significant attractions such as Lady Musgrave, Lady Elliot Island, Bundaberg Rum, HMAS Tobruk and everything else the beautiful Bundaberg Region has to offer,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“We know with the international market being withdrawn, [local tourism operators] are crying out for fellow Queenslanders and Australians to come to beautiful Bundaberg and the southern Great Barrier Reef.”