Free flights to Australia: signs of tourism innovation or economic emergency?

Is Tourism Australia starting to get desperate?  As reported yesterday on the Australian Visa Bureau, international tourists could be offered free flights to Australia in a bid to counter-act the downturn in Australian tourism.

Essentially, the proposed plan (titled the "Mayday Project") would involve visitors being given free return flights to Australia by Tourism Australia, with the proviso being that they promise to spend a certain amount of money within Australia while visiting.

Independent Tourism Holdings director Steve Cusworth is steering the project, but he won't meet with Australian government representatives and key tourism industry names until next week.  However, it's another example of the Australian tourism board looking to innovative new ways to combat the ever-newsworthy global economic crisis. 

After the roaring success of the 'best job in the world' promotion by Tourism Queensland, it seems that going beyond the usual tourism campaigns is the route to success for marketing the land Down Under.

However, that's not to say they don't face a challenge. International tourism to Australia saw a drop of 8.5 per cent in 2008, and even though the country routinely tops traveller's lists as the destination they're keenest to visit, it's far from the most economically friendly destination for Western tourists.  With subsidised airfares though, it's fair to say that Australia would be an awfully more attractive proposition. 

However, assuming that tourists taking advantage of the deal, they'll still be required to spend a certain amount while on their travels.  The current amount being bandied about is AUD $5,000.00 (approx. £2350.00), but what is there to spend it on?  

Assuming you don't have any interest in enjoying the too-many-to-list resorts, activities, tours, restaurants and shopping experiences that make Australia such a great place to visit on an Australian holiday visa, here's a quick guide to a few easy ways you could get that cash out your wallet and into the Australian economy!

Need to spend 5,000 Aussie dollars in a hurry?  Why not buy...

  • 78,000 teabags;
  • 13,390 eggs;
  • 1,240 loaves of bread;
  • 4,760 pints of milk;
  • 1,450 Big Macs;
  • 166 copies of Baz Luhrmann's 'Australia' on DVD; OR
  • 760 pints of draught beer in an Aussie pub (or 970 shots of whiskey).

So, even though they've not kicked off the flights promotion yet, you'll be well prepared to meet the minimum spend requirement if and when they do. Just pace yourself if you take the pub option though, or distribute your hundreds of drinks amongst the rest of the pub's patrons; less risk of liver failure, and you're guaranteed to make a few friends!

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau