‘Help fill the void’: Tourism Australia urges locals to put holidays under the tree

Australians are being asked to play Santa this year and put vouchers for holidays around the country under the tree as part of a new $2 million federal government campaign banking on festive cheer to help revive the nation's tourism industry.

Advertising from Tourism Australia will hit the radio waves, billboards and social media from this weekend urging locals to start "Holiday Gifting" by giving experiences as presents.

Getting Aussies to travel around the country is on the federal government’s Christmas list.Credit:Attila Csaszar

The tourism sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic due to closures of state and international borders. The Morrison government has been hoping more Australians will be willing to travel around the country to keep the industry afloat over the peak December and January months. At the same time last year, there were 16.4 million domestic overnight trips worth $12.8 billion.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said more local travel was needed to "help fill the void until our international borders re-open". One in 13 jobs in Australia are in the tourism sector and domestic travel is worth $100 billion a year to the industry.

"As we head into the peak travel period and with many Australians preparing to jet set across the country, I encourage people to consider booking an experience that they can share with their friends and family over the holiday period," Mr Birmingham said.

Over the past few weeks, most interstate borders have reopened, including to Queensland, which is home to some of the country's most popular tourist destinations. While uncertainty remains about further border closures if coronavirus cases were to spike, Mr Birmingham said businesses had been "changing their terms and conditions around refunds and credits" to ensure bookings could be confidently made.

In the past, consumers were typically entitled to a full refund if services were cancelled, but if the cancellation was due to government intervention such as a border closure or travel ban, sometimes the seller was not required to repay depending on the contract terms. Travel-related complaints to the consumer watchdog increased five-fold this year, to more than 24,000, between the start of January and October 31. Ticketek is among those businesses that have updated terms to ensure everyone can get a refund during the pandemic.

"By visiting a tourist attraction or an experience you will be supporting tourism jobs and also the thousands of tourism businesses across Australia that have done it so incredibly tough this year," Mr Birmingham said.

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said the latest campaign was an extension of the Holiday Here This Year campaign, which has been encouraging Australians to consider local travel rather than skipping holidays altogether.

"What better way to capture the rising optimism we're seeing at the moment as travel restrictions ease and borders re-open again, than by gifting a holiday or a holiday experience," Ms Harrison said.

In June, the OECD identified domestic tourism as the "main chance for driving recovery" in countries, regions and cities reliant on the sector for jobs.

State governments have started implementing their own stimulus measures to help support local tourism, retail and events businesses, with NSW rolling out four $25 vouchers for each adult in the state from January to spend on dining and entertainment. The Victorian government is giving out 120,000 vouchers worth $200 over the December period to encourage spending on accommodation, attractions and tours.

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