The government's plan to boost the travel industry through discounted flights has been met with a muted response in Canberra, where the sector feels "overlooked".
Many say the future after JobKeeper ends at the end of the month continues to look bleak, as the $1.2 billion package announced by the federal government won't encourage visiting or spending money in the capital.
The 800,000 half-price flights to be funded between April 1 and July 31 so far only apply to an initial list of 13 locations, with Canberrans only able to use that program to leave the city.
Chief Executive of Canberra Airport Stephen Byron said Canberra was connected to three of the cities part of the half-price program - Gold Coast, Cairns and the Sunshine Coast.
"This package shows that the government is confident that border closures are finished," Mr Byron said.
"With the vaccine rollout now in full swing, it is now safe to travel."
While he said the program would offered much-needed support across many parts of the tourism industry, there was still a long way to go, with passenger numbers at the airport down 63 per cent on 2019 levels in February.
David Marshall, chair of the Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum, said it was a disappointing result for the city, which is still feeling the pain from a lack of international tourism and reduced business travel.
Mr Marshall said although some sectors in Canberra, like hospitality, were booming, others, like small tour operators and other retail that depends on visitors were struggling.
"It's not an immediate fix like JobKeeper was," he said.
"And if one state closes their border or says 'you were in Cairns you have to isolate when you come back' it will kill the whole program."
Chair of the ACT Small Tour Operators Collective and operator of the Canberra Secrets pesonalised tour business Marg Wade said both Canberra and tour operators had been "overlooked".
"There's so much for people to see and do and enjoy, it's disappointing. We've really missed out."
While Ms Ward had been able to access JobKeeper at the tax office cashflow boost, she said many small tour operators in the region were dipping into their savings to stay afloat.
"The concern is now for tour operators, with the end of JobKeeper, many tour operators are saying they'll have to sell their vehicles and finish up."
More than half of Ms Ward's business before the pandemic came from international travellers, and while some domestic travellers are still booking tours, many weren't confident to book more than one or two weeks in advance.
General Manager of the ACT branch of the Australian Hotels Association Anthony Brierley said a fairer deal was needed for the region.
Hotels in Canberra remained 20 to 30 per cent below pre-pandemic levels he said, and while it was better than March last year, or the Northern Sydney lockdown over Christmas "it is far from smooth-sailing".
"The biggest improvement will come with the resumption of corporate travel into Canberra," Mr Brierley said.
"The package today does not help Canberra hotels, let alone incentivise corporate travel."
He said businesses would be wary of taking up the government's local program for small and medium enterprises, not wanting to take on new debts.
The future without JobKeeper was daunting for the hopsitality industry he said, especially as winter would pose challenges to outdoor dining, and travel was being incentivised elsewhere.
"Once winter arrives, the outdoor space that businesses have utilised in order to maintain a sufficient number of patrons will be cold and inhospitable," he said.
"Hospitality venues should be provided with a clear roadmap to return to their pre-COVID occupancy levels in their warm indoor spaces. Either that, or Government financial support should continue to compensate for the impact of ongoing restrictions."
There is some light at the end of the tunnel though. Canberra is set to host one of the country's first major multi-day conferences next week, with 800 people registered to attend the Australian Cyber Conference at the National Convention Centre.
"With zero community transmitted cases since mid-2020, and stringent COVID-safe guidelines in all venues and institutions, Canberra is one of the safest cities in Australia and is already seeing a return to in-person events," said Michael Matthews, Chief Executive Officer at Canberra Convention Bureau.
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