Travellers rush for bookings as huge cost of COVID is revealed

The Morrison Government’s tourism plan has lit a fire under travellers who flooded Virgin Australia yesterday, increasing flight searches by 78 per cent and bookings by 40 per cent.

Mar 12, 2021, updated Mar 12, 2021
Air fares were expected to fall later this year (file image)

Air fares were expected to fall later this year (file image)

And the boost couldn’t come soon enough. Federal Government data released today revealed that domestic tourism losses in 2020 amounted to $44 billion because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the bushfires.

Virgin has put seats on various routes on a half-price sale for the period between March 15 and 28, just before the Morrison Government’s deal starts. The deal ends at 7pm tonight.

A Virgin spokesman said the airline’s phones were jammed with people wanting to know more about the fare scheme.

Among the deals were Brisbane to Sydney for $89, Gold Coast to Sydney for $67, Brisbane to Townsville for $125, Cairns to Brisbane for $115 and Mackay to Brisbane for $99.

The data from Tourism Research Australia showed Queensland’s overnight visitor numbers fell by 35 per cent and overnight spend dropped by 40 per cent in 2020.

But December saw a turnaround, according to TRA when Australians took more overnight trips than at any time during the pandemic. In regional Queensland domestic tourism expenditure was up 12 per cent for the month.

“Domestic day trips saw further losses of $8.9 billion (down 34 per cent) in the 2020 calendar year. This brings total domestic losses to $44.0 billion (down 41 per cent) compared to 2019,’’ TRA said.

In December, capital cities recorded losses of $1.1 billion in spend (down 36 per cent) through the loss of 1.6 million overnight visitors (down 38 per cent).

“Comparatively, regional Australia recorded much smaller losses. Overnight spend was down only 2 per cent or $51 million, and visitors were down by 8 per cent or 470,000,’’ TRA said.

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