21/07/2020 - 13:00

Tourism WA, Virgin partner on discount airfares

21/07/2020 - 13:00

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The state government will partner with Virgin Australia to slash regional airfares until the end of October in efforts to bolster WA’s sagging tourism industry.

Virgin Australia entered into voluntary administration in April. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government will partner with Virgin Australia to slash regional airfares until the end of October in efforts to bolster Western Australia's sagging tourism industry.

Around 8,000 flights between Perth and the Kimberley towns of Broome and Kununurra will be discounted as a result of the partnership, from August 3 until October 31.

Flights between Perth and Broome will again become a daily service after having been reduced to three-per-week during the height of the pandemic, while an additional service will be added to the existing Kununurra service.

The partnership with Virgin had been arranged through Tourism WA and the Department of Transport, and will support the state’s existing ‘Wander Out Yonder’ campaign.

That campaign was introduced in June, replacing the ill-fated ‘Do it in WA’ campaign that was retired following the imposition of WA’s border restrictions and lockdown in March.

Announcing the news this morning, Premier Mark McGowan said he encouraged residents to visit the Kimberley given airfares were now more affordable.

“These flights will also provide Kimberley locals with extra support to travel to Perth to holiday, do business or visit family and friends, and support the many great tourism attractions in the Perth region,” Mr McGowan said.

“It’s initiatives and investments like these that will help us reposition and restart the tourism sector to maintain business, support jobs and progress our recovery journey.”

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia echoed that sentiment, saying tourism operators in the Kimberley were dealing with particularly difficult circumstances at the moment.

“These flights will break down barriers for Western Australians to holiday in these stunning destinations and get a taste of the experiences out-of-State visitors have been taking advantage of in record numbers in recent years,” Mr Papalia said.

Virgin’s chief commercial officer John MacLeod said additional flights were welcome and would provide leisure and business travellers more reasons to travel throughout WA.

“We’re thrilled to be connecting these three destinations within WA, particularly given the vital role that tourism plays in the local industry and broader economy,” he said.

Airline industry struggles

Today’s announcement comes as Virgin Australia’s bondholders have pushed back in recent days against plans to sell the embattled airline to US-based investment firm Bain Capital.

Virgin Australia entered into voluntary administration in April.

Deloitte on Sunday rejected a draft debt restructuring plan from Singapore-based hedge fund Broad Peak and Hong Kong-based investor Tor, which proposed relisting Virgin on the ASX and converting existing debt to equity.

In rejecting the proposal, Deloitte had called the offer highly conditional and said it contained no evidence of committed funding to enable a transaction to be completed.

Airlines globally have struggled with decelerating demand and widespread uncertainty this year, as international borders have remained largely closed as a result of COVID-19.

Last week, Qantas said it would cancel most of its international flights until March of next year, with only a handful of flights to New Zealand remaining.

That followed the airline announcing in June that it would seek to raise around $2 billion from shareholders to aid in its three-year recovery, which included letting go of a fifth of workers.

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