The chief executives of three major travel organisations have met with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to discuss how they can help speed up the vaccine rollout, including incentives and potentially using regional hotels as vaccination hubs.
Alan Joyce (Qantas), Jayne Hrdlicka (Virgin Australia) and Stephen Ferguson (Australian Hotel Association) joined more than 30 CEOs of Australia’s biggest businesses and industry representatives on Wednesday, who met with the Treasurer to suggest ways the public sector can help get Aussies vaccinated faster.
The meeting was also joined by general John Frewen, coordinator general of the COVID vaccine task force, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and the secretary of the federal Treasury, Dr Steven Kennedy.
Following the meeting, Frydenberg said issues such as transport, logistics, premises, community engagement as well as communications were among the things the meeting addressed.
“It was agreed by all members present that businesses will write to all their workers about the importance of being vaccinated and in some cases will be reaching out to the customer base,” he said.
Hrdlicka said big employers have the ability to stand up vaccination programs quickly and would welcome the opportunity to be able to vaccinate as much of their workforce as quickly as possible.
“Having large employers run vaccination programs would take pressure off government, get a large number of people vaccinated in a short period of time, and bring private sector efficiencies and capabilities into the equation,” she said.
Virgin Australia’s boss also called for better public education campaigns about the vaccine, to help people understand the safety and efficacy of each of the vaccine choices.
“There is too much misinformation and misguided fear around vaccination and it is time to fix that,” Hrdlicka said.
“Virgin Australia would be happy to support an education campaign which helps to explain the merits, the safety, and the importance of vaccination and helps the Australian community to make a properly informed choice.”
Frydenberg said many businesses offered premises for vaccine hubs, including Wesfarmers offering to provide jabs at Bunnings Warehouse and Office Works.
AHA national CEO Stephen Ferguson raised the possibility of using hotels in remote areas as future vaccine hubs, as well as encouraging staff and customers to get the jab.
“The rollout and take-up of the vaccine is critical to hospitality, accommodation and tourism being able to open their doors and keep them open,” he said.
In terms of incentives, the Treasurer used the example of airlines offering frequent flyer points, adding that incentives on offer would be “more than a snag at Bunnings”.
In May, Joyce said Qantas would reward those who get the jab with Frequent Flyer points, flight vouchers or Frequent Flyer status upgrades.
The scheme is set to be launched sometime this month and will also offer 10 mega prizes, one for each state or territory, that will offer a family of four unlimited free travel on Qantas and Jetstar’s domestic and international networks for a year.
Last month, Virgin also revealed it would incentivise the jab with a national competition that would offer fully vaccinated Aussies the chance to win tens of thousands of dollars worth of prizes, which will be revealed once the competition opens.
But, the airline said it will give away dozens of free business-class flights and one lucky Australian will become a Velocity Frequent Flyer Points millionaire.
Despite airlines already jumping on board, Frewen said more incentives would be on offer later in the year.
“When it comes to incentives, right now, the key message is that vaccinations is the right thing to do and people should be getting out and getting vaccinated, and I think industry have committed to supporting us in that messaging,” he said.
“But, we will look at our range of incentives and how they might support incentivisation, but again, I think that is for a time later in the year when we get beyond the immediate.”
Featured image source: Twitter/@JoshFrydenberg