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Asia Minute: Encouraging Domestic Travel

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As vaccinations increase across the state and around the country, the thoughts of some are turning to travel plans. But for many in the hospitality industry, the shorter-term targets are still a domestic market.

Australia is going to spend nearly a billion U.S. dollars to encourage its citizens to take a little break, and stay in the country while doing it.

The federal government has put together a program to encourage domestic tourism with half-price air fares to half a dozen locations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters late last week “to keep people in their jobs, we’ve got to put planes in the air, and we’ve got to put tourists on the ground.”

Some critics say most benefits will go to large tour operators — while opposition party leaders say the choice of destinations has more to do with politics than economic relief. Most of the destinations are in locations with many swing voters, and Australia could see a general election as early as later this year.

Government support of domestic travel has had mixed results elsewhere.

A Japanese program encouraging domestic travel was shut down after some charged that it helpedspread the coronavirus.

Last summer, Thailand launched a program called “We Travel Together” — cutting prices on flights and hotel stays for domestic travelers. It was temporarily suspended in December for what the government called “irregularities,” but has since returned.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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