It Shouldn't Be Easier To Travel Overseas Than To Regional Australia
Holiday-goers are being urged to travel to regional Australia and support rural economies during drought, but it's a big ask when it's cheaper at times to travel overseas instead.
In the midst of one of the most severe droughts on record, regional tourism is pegged as a key way to support the communities and producers that are the backbone of the nation.
The problem is, it’s too hard to get out there.
I’m from Griffith, NSW, which is by no means a small, rural town but rather a regional city with a population of about 26,000.
Agriculture is the driving force of its economy, as is tourism, and in times of drought both are vital but challenging to maintain.
In line with Cobar but further south, Griffith is a six hour drive to Sydney and five hours from Melbourne, or, as my mum describes it, “just that bit too far from everything”.
An unexpected move means I suddenly find myself in the predicament of having to fly home for an event, which shouldn’t be a problem as it’s just an hour flight from Sydney.
Except… with less than six weeks notice, the sole Sydney-Griffith airline’s booking page flashes back at me angry and red with phrases like “sold out” and “fewer than three seats remaining”.
So our options as a couple are: pay more than $800 in flights, an unrealistic 18-hour rail journey, or a 12-hour road trip in my Mazda 2 Neo (hey, it can fit a double swag in it, it can do anything).
Despite Griffith being one of the easier regional centres to get to, it would be cheaper for us to fly to New Zealand instead.
Still, we inland lovers will make the trek for our mates whether it blows an engine gasket or our budget.
But is it any wonder that those holiday hunters who don’t have country roots take their spending money out of the country instead?
Remembering this is the target group former Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, so eloquently told to “get off your arse and get out there”.
Regional airlines are seemingly trying to do their bit; many have flight deals with regional councils in a bid to make communities more accessible.
Regional Express has a five-year deal with Griffith City Council enabling $130 dollar flights for 25 percent of its seats if booked day-of or more than a month in advance.
Still, predicaments like mine arise even with these incentives in place and it’s even harder for other communities.
Places like Walgett and Bourke have lacked regular passenger services for about a decade, some only just getting flights reinstated.
It’s an example of how the State Government can work with airlines to improve access to rural Australia; however, I don’t believe this work should stop with some of the state’s outermost communities.
All levels government should strive to invest more in regional infrastructure across roads, rail and air to support local tourism which is essential for many agriculture-driven communities in drought
Quite simply, it shouldn’t be easier to go overseas than head inland for a weekend.