HUNTER tourism leaders are disappointed Newcastle Airport has not been included on a list of destinations that will have federally subsidised airfares, expressing concern about a potential dip in trade as holidaymakers opt for those locations instead.
The Morrison government's $1.2 billion package for the tourism industry unveiled on Thursday includes a mix of half-price airline tickets, cheap loans for businesses and direct support to keep planes in the air and airline workers in jobs.
Up to 800,000 half-price airfares will be on offer to 13 regions, places like the Gold Coast, Cairns, Alice Springs, Launceston, Broome and Avalon.
The only NSW destination was Merimbula on the state's far south coast.
"Clearly this package will leave a long list of 'have nots' as a consequence of many NSW destinations, including the Hunter, being left off the list," Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said.
"There are businesses in the Hunter across tourism, events and entertainment that continue to struggle."
He said the loan scheme might "provide some support" to recovering businesses, but asking them to go further into debt "with no certainty of future revenue" was a "huge ask".
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said the half-price destination list was "preliminary" and would be updated as the government "continued to work with the airlines".
"We've had to step in and support those locations which predominately have international tourists fly to them, which have been incredibly hard hit by this pandemic," he said.
"They're the areas that really need our support."
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association CEO Amy Cooper said the region had done well recently on the back of a "very active" marketing campaign, but international tourists traditionally provided midweek trade that had not been replaced by domestic visitors.
"We are disappointed as [Newcastle Airport] is a gateway to a number of tourism centres in our region; Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens," she said.
"It's got a lot of direct [inbound] flights out of major cities.
"We've also been impacted in the midweek market space by [a lack of] business events."
Multiple tourism venture operators in Port Stephens said they had experienced decent trade as a result of increased domestic travel, particularly out of Sydney, but that was not the case for all.
"Some of us are going okay, but some of us definitely aren't," Imagine Cruises boss Frank Future said.
"Anyone that's been involved in domestic tourism tended to pick up, but those companies that handle more overseas visitors have not.
"I'm one of the lucky ones that has benefited by the contraction of tourism to regional areas."
Worimi Aboriginal Land Council CEO Andrew Smith said not-for-profit Sand Dune Adventures went "gangbusters" when it reopened in June after the shutdown and was still doing well.
He acknowledged other locations around Australia that mainly catered to international tourists would be doing it more difficult than Port Stephens, but was concerned with cheap flights on offer trade might fall if Sydneysiders opt for those destinations instead.
Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock said while the support for airlines and key routes was a positive, he was "disappointed our region wasn't earmarked for financial support as one of the targeted destinations".
"We are hoping to hear confirmation that flights from Newcastle Airport to the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast will be subject to the support program," he said.
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