Published on Wednesday, June 11, 2008

QLD govt to underwrite axed flights

Reports from Queensland say that the  State Government has announced a plan to underwrite flights to Queensland tourist destinations to compensate for domestic flight cuts by the major airlines.

Tourism Minister Desley Boyle meets in Brisbane this morning with her federal counterpart, Martin Ferguson, Tourism Queensland chiefs and Premier Anna Bligh to discuss how to tackle the problem.

Ms Boyle, the member for Cairns, yesterday cancelled a planned trip to the United States and Brazil to develop an aggressive strategy to rescue Queensland tourism, which has been rocked by Qantas' decision to cut services from Japan to Cairns and Brisbane due to rising fuel costs and declining passenger numbers.

The number of Japanese tourists coming to Queensland has been in decline for several years, plunging 13.5 per cent since 2007, according to figures released last Friday.

However, the slump in Japanese tourists has been offset by an increase in Chinese visitors, up 29.4 per cent in the 12 months to March 2008.

It is understood this morning's talks will decide how to use the $4 million rescue package announced last week by the State Government to underwrite flights to Queensland tourist destinations.

Both domestic and international flights could be underwritten, but the emphasis will be on international flights.

Decisions will have to be made on how the flights are subsidised, and for how long.

The State Government will also likely ask the Federal Government for funding assistance to help underwrite the flights into Queensland.

Ms Boyle had originally planned to travel to Cairns and the Gold Coast today to brief local tourist operators, but those plans were scuttled in favour of a meeting with Mr Ferguson.

Ms Boyle contacted several international airlines today to entice them to enter the Queensland market.

One airline that could be in Ms Boyle's sights is Tiger Airways, which has bases in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Singapore.

Among the routes cancelled last week was Jetstar's Sydney to Proserpine route. The route is now only served by Virgin Blue, which is understood to also be considering cuts to services.

It is expected that Japanese airlines will be courted to take up the tourist numbers into Queensland.

Ms Bligh supported Ms Boyle's decision to cancel her overseas trip.

"I believe her decision to remain in Queensland during this tough time is the right one," Ms Bligh said.

"While the north of the state has worn the brunt of these recent airline announcements, these are decisions that are affecting the entire state tourism industry including the Whitsundays and the Gold and Sunshine coasts."

Ms Boyle had intended to attend the BioTech conference in the United States with Ms Bligh before travelling to Brazil to represent Queensland cane growers at an ethanol conference.

by The Mole

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