Premier upbeat on impact to state's tourism

TASMANIA’S tourism industry will bounce back strongly from COVID-19, despite Virgin Australia going into voluntary administration, Premier Peter Gutwein says. Virgin Australia yesterday entered voluntary administration “to recapitalise the business and help ensure it emerges in a stronger financial position on the other side”, the company said in a statement. Mr Gutwein said two airlines in Australia was important for competition, but the state’s tourism industry was an established and robust brand. “We have the fantastic wilderness, the beautiful scenery, the Tasmania that so many of us for a long period of time took for granted, which is now acknowledged around the world as being just such a fantastic location to visit — that will remain. Regardless of how many airlines are flying, we will see demand for the product, when the borders can be removed and reduced.” Mr Gutwein said the State Government had not offered the airline any financial assistance. Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania CEO Luke Martin said he was optimistic about the airline’s restructure and said history had shown that domestic travel bounced back strongly from major crises. “It’s administration, not receivership. Out of this will come a restructured Virgin or an alternative ownership structure,” he said. “The reason that this is a good thing for Tasmania is that Virgin have tried to compete with Qantas on the mainland on business travel and have given up the low-cost leisure traveller. “Hopefully, what will come out of this is that they will compete more with Jetstar in that market.” Mr Martin said there was also the potential for Tasmania to benefit from a boost in domestic travel during any period that there were still restrictions on international travel. Federal Labor MP for Lyons Brian Mitchell said the loss of Virgin would be devastating for the state. “This is absolutely catastrophic for Tasmania, it really is, particularly for regional Tasmania,” he said. “If Virgin goes, we’re talking about a monopoly carrier again. Even if someone else does come in, it takes years to get the contracts and routes in place.” In addition to the loss of up to 16,000 jobs, Mr Mitchell said Tasmania risked becoming an expensive destination for visitors under a Qantas monopoly. “We’ve grown used to seeing international travellers coming to Tasmania and spending up big. “Now we’re going to have to rely on domestic travel. Qantas will cut the flights and the prices will go up. Tasmania will become an expensive destination from the mainland.” Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said airlines were essential services and the Federal Government should step in and take an equity stake to maintain competition in the market — particularly for the sake of Tasmania. “Things would come to a standstill here if it wasn’t for good air services,” he said.