Government, Sydney Airport to lure back airlines with $120m ‘war chest’

But hours after his announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted citizens would take precedence before skilled migrants, international students and tourists would be allowed into the country.

Mr Perrottet on Wednesday denied the state had “gone early”, saying he hoped international tourism would return later this year.

“No one is going to travel to Australia if you’ve got to sit in a hotel for two weeks, and you can’t leave,” Mr Perrottet said. “If you wait [to act], you won’t get the outcome.”

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said airlines had been making commercial decisions to re-allocate flights away from Australia and Sydney Airport had been operating at about 1 per cent of its traditional revenue.

“We should not be arrogant enough to think that just because we’ve reopened the border, or we’ve removed quarantine, that every commercial operator around the world is just going to come back to Australia,” he said.

“I do not want to see flights out of the United States, out of continental Europe, out of Asia bypassing Australia because we just said ‘yeah, we’re open’, and we’re not going to support those businesses coming back here.”

Responding to the aviation package, a Qantas spokeswoman said the airline was in discussions with the NSW government about opening up new international routes from Sydney and restarting others “much earlier”.

She said it would help bring more tourists back to Australia and get more Qantas employees back to work.

The airline last week confirmed it would restart international flights on November 1 between Sydney and Los Angeles and Sydney and London. It said flights to other destinations would resume from December 2021 and into 2022.

A Singapore Airlines spokesman said the company looked forward to receiving more details about the aviation attraction fund that was announced by the NSW Premier.

“Currently SIA operates 17 flights a week to Sydney and we continue to work closely with all levels of government to support the safe, scalable and sustainable reopening of Australia’s borders,” he said.

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“We have invested significantly in Australia over the past 18-months to ensure the country remained connected to the world, maintaining operations that have kept key trade channels open and provided avenues for essential travel to be undertaken.”

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said the government had listened to their calls for an aviation re-attraction fund, which she expects to make a “huge difference” to the industry.

“[It will] send a level of confidence and a very strong message to our international partners, whether they be airlines, travel agencies, whatever it may be, we’re open for business, we want you back, and you’re going to have a fabulous time here in NSW.”

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