Travellers heading to Tasmania on board the Spirit of Tasmania ferry will be able to take their cars for free, the federal government has announced.
The government is increasing the rebate for the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme (BSPVES) by $6 million, meaning cars and motorcycles can ride the ferry at zero cost.
The deal will apply from March 1 this year through to June 30.
"COVID-19 has significantly affected tourism in Tasmania and the number of passenger vehicles travelling across Bass Strait which is why we are moving to increase the rebate," Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said.
Bookings on the Spirit of Tasmania had dropped 85 per cent, according to Tasmanian senator and assistant industry minister, Jonno Duniam.
""This is a critical and targeted boost for tourism, as visitors who travel to Tasmania by sea are among the most valuable to the industry, they spend more, stay longer and travel further into our regional areas," he said.
"In fact, these travellers account for 12 per cent of all visitors to Tasmania yet they contribute a massive 20 per cent of all annual visitor spending."
The rebate means a saving of $240 on trips for travellers taking a car on board.
In July, during the Victorian COVID-19 outbreak, there were calls for the Spirit of Tasmania to bypass the state and link Tasmania to Sydney directly.
The subsidy will also include passengers transporting an eligible passenger vehicle between King Island or the Furneaux Group and the mainland.
The Spirit of Tasmania currently travels between Port Melbourne and Devonport, but will move its Victorian base to Geelong in late 2022. Vehicle congestion around Station Pier in Port Melbourne during boarding times is one of the key reasons for the move.
The ferries currently have several COVID-19 safety measures in place, including requiring passengers to wear masks during check-in, boarding and disembarkation and in any indoor public areas on board.
Tasmania's borders are currently open to visitors from interstate, unless they come from an area deemed "high risk", in which case they cannot enter the state, or "medium risk" in which case they must quarantine for 14 days. Multiple sites in NSW and Victoria are currently classified as high risk by Tasmania after the most recent COVID-19 outbreak in those states.