WA Government to subsidise more flights to Broome, Exmouth Kununurra

Thousands of subsidised flights are now available to WA’s north to help its tourism industry survive the low season as the state remains closed off to the rest of the world.

The WA Government has struck a deal with Virgin Australia and Qantas to provide 50,000 flights over a 12-month period to and from Perth to Broome, Exmouth and Kununurra.

Premier Mark McGowan said it was the largest regional flight deal in the state’s history and provided a “vital economic boost” to the region “hardest hit by COVID-19”.

“This will ensure those communities will have affordable airfares over the traditional down time … and this will ensure that more Western Australians are able to travel to our regions to enjoy the amazing and unique tourism experiences,” Mr McGowan said.

From November, 18,000 one-way flights to Exmouth are available from $149 in the low season and $169 in the high season.

A further 20,000 one-way Virgin Australia flights to Broome from November are $199.

From March to September next year, flights to Kununurra are available for $249.

“It will also mean locals in those parts of Western Australia can access these fares and also come down to the city,” Mr McGowan said.

Tourism Council of WA chief executive Evan Hall said it would come as welcome relief for operators in the north who are yet to reopen.

“This deal will drive bookings for tourism businesses for next year’s peak season, and give them the confidence to open up again,” Mr Hall said.

Flights to boost CBD hotel occupancy

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said it would also encourage locals in the regions to head to Perth where the inner-city hotel industry was struggling.

“The big city hotels are probably the one sector … suffering the most,” he said.

Paul Papalia says CBD hotels are still suffering, although the government’s ‘staycation’ promotion has boosted weekend occupancy.(Supplied: WA Government)

“Having said that … I know the big hotels that aren’t COVID isolation sites, are doing over 80 per cent (occupancy) on the weekends.

“During the week it’s more like 15 so 18 per cent to it averages out about 60 per cent plus, that’s not bad in a COVID world.”

It was not revealed how much the flight deal had cost WA taxpayers but follows a similar deal struck in July where 8,000 flights were subsidised to Broome and Kununurra.

Premier defends Budget spend

The sweetener comes ahead of Thursday’s state budget and after the Government had already revealed it would include a $600 power bill credit for every WA household.

But with WA expected to remain in the black despite the impacts of the pandemic, the Premier was pressed on whether the state was spending enough on supporting struggling households and businesses.

WA Premier Mark McGowan in headshot
WA Premier Mark McGowan says his government is doing all it can to create jobs and stimulate the economy.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“Our economic management over this period has been very, very strong compared to anywhere else in Australia,” Mr McGowan said.

“On top of that, we launched … the recovery plan, that was a $5.5 billion investment, in payroll tax cuts, in freezing fees and charges, in important infrastructure all over the state.

“We’re doing everything we can to stimulate the economy, to get jobs back.”

The McGowan Government is spending $5.5 billion on its COVID-19 WA Recovery Plan to help drive economic and social recovery.

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