The New South Wales government has launched a A$60 million ($45 million) fund aimed at luring back international carriers to Sydney, as the country begins to crack open its borders.

Known as the Aviation Attraction Fund, it is part of a broader A$530 million lifeline the New South Wales state government is doling out to “supercharge” its tourism and travel economy.

Sydney Opera House

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

The Sydney Opera House.

Shortly after the announcement by the state government, airport operator Sydney Airport says it will match the fund dollar-for-dollar, creating what it calls a “war chest aimed at turbo-charging the return of international airlines to the state”.

Like major airports around the region, Sydney Airport has suffered from a steep decline in passenger numbers since the coronavirus outbreak began in early 2020. Travel restrictions, coupled with tightly-shut international borders, have led to a 97% decrease in passenger numbers against pre-pandemic 2019.

Sydney Airport chief Geoff Culbert adds that 18 international carriers have completely halted flights to Sydney. 

“Today’s announcement will put us back on the map as Australia’s gateway and accelerate our return to pre-pandemic levels of passenger traffic,” Culbert says.

Once the epicentre of Australia’s worst wave of coronavirus infections, Sydney and the state of New South Wales have since eased a long-drawn lockdown, as vaccination rates steadily increased. 

The state government has also allowed fully-vaccinated Australians to return to Sydney from overseas without having to serve mandatory quarantine.