Budget sweetener to promote great outdoors

Australians are being tempted to take an interstate trip through extra funding for outdoor attractions.

Next week’s budget will sprinkle Commonwealth cash over a range of environmental tourism projects.

The money will be used to upgrade hiking huts in the Tasmanian wilderness, fix walking tracks in northern NSW, build water crossings in Victoria and restore heritage sites in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Almost two dozen national parks and world heritage sites will share a slice of the $33.5 million pie.

The Tourism and Transport Forum welcomed the funding boost for regions decimated by coronavirus restrictions.

“We know that nature-based tourism is a major drawcard for many Australians as interstate borders ideally continue to reopen in the lead-up to Christmas,” TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said on Thursday.

“These investments are critical right now to prepare for the return of domestic tourists hungry for a slice of Aussie nature and landscapes.”

Another $20 million will be spent restoring native shellfish reefs lost to over-fishing and dredging, creating diving spots in at least 11 coastal communities smashed by bushfires and the virus.

Townsville’s aquarium will get a $5 million face-lift and marine park operators will be offered $3.2 million to monitor the Great Barrier Reef.

The funding announcements follow an earlier promise of $250 million for regional tourism initiatives.

The tourism peak industry body is confident demand will return as Australians look to escape cabin fever.

But it is concerned people are still thinking twice about booking plane tickets and choosing destinations within four hours driving distance of their homes.

The TTF wants the budget to include $50 million for a marketing campaign promoting domestic travel by air.

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