The federal government will roll out a $1.2 billion stimulus package across the travel and tourism industries, along with an extension to its SME Loan Guarantee Scheme once JobKeeper expires at the end of the month.
The support package will subsidise 50 per cent of 800,000 domestic flights to select tourism destinations across Australia. The discounts will be based on average air fares, subject to final discussions with airlines, and will commence from 1 April.
Destinations included in the scheme include the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays, Alice Springs, Broome, Kangaroo Island and Merimbula.
“This is our ticket to recovery — 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling and supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines who continue to do it tough through COVID-19 while our international borders remain closed,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“Our tourism businesses don’t want to rely on government support forever. They want their tourists back.
“This package, combined with our vaccine rollout which is gathering pace, is part of our National Economic Recovery Plan and the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading.”
The stimulus package will also include new international aviation support aimed at sustaining more than 8,000 jobs, as well as support for airport screening costs and a services assistance support program to relieve the cost burden related to training on-the-ground staff at Australian airports.
Expanded SME loan scheme
As part of its targeted support announcement, the Morrison government also announced an extension to, and expansion of, its SME Loan Guarantee Scheme.
The expansion will see the limit of eligible loans rise from $1 million to $5 million under the scheme, as well as a cost split shift which will see the government guarantee a higher portion of the loan. The shift would see the government’s 50-50 split with banks shift to an 80-20 split.
Businesses with a higher turnover are expected to benefit, too, as the cap on eligible turnover increases from $50 million to $250 million.
Borrowers will be offered a repayment holiday on both principal and interest for up to 24 months, with loan terms increased from five years to 10 years.
The expanded scheme will only be open to recipients of JobKeeper payments between 4 January and 28 March, and those that applied during the first phase of the scheme, with the government expecting more than 350,000 current JobKeeper recipients to be eligible.
The loans will be available from 1 April and remain open until 31 December.
“This SME Recovery Scheme is part of the next step in our plan to help small businesses stand on their own two feet as the economy recovers from COVID-19,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
“The expansion and extension of the loans will back businesses that back themselves and will help businesses who continue to do it tough build a bridge to the other side of the crisis and keep their staff employed.”