The number of people travelling within Australia almost doubled in June before the second wave of COVID-19 struck, new tourism data shows.

There were 5.4 million domestic visitors in June, up from three million in May, Tourism Research Australia’s latest figures show.

The travel contributed an extra $1.09 billion to the economy, more than double the amount spent in May. Spending in regional NSW grew by 168 per cent on the previous month, while regional Victorian spend increased by 185 per cent.

The numbers were still well below the heights of last year, when 9.3 million people hit the road in May and spent $5.8 billion.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the trend was positive but many businesses were still struggling.

“This data demonstrates that Australians are willing and eager to travel where it’s safe to do so, which is a reminder that excessive border restrictions are limiting the jobs recovery in some communities and businesses,” he said.

“I urge Australians who are in a position to do so, to take a staycation, organise an offsite business meeting at a venue or for those who live in the bush, to book a weekend away in the big smoke as this could help to save a tourism business or the job of an Australian.”

The federal government also announced a new $50 million package to jumpstart the business events sector which employs a quarter of the tourism industry.

Eligible businesses are able to seek grants covering 50 per cent of their costs up to $250,000 for events in 2021.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said: “Business events encourage domestic travel and the more events we can lock in, the more people we can get flowing through our airports, on planes and staying in hotels around the country.”

Meanwhile, Tourism Australia has launched a COVID-19 travel portal to help make planning a holiday easier.

The online portal includes latest information on domestic border restrictions and safety guidelines, providing a one-stop hub for information about booking travel amid the pandemic outbreak.

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison hopes the portal will make Australians more confident to plan and book a domestic holiday and travel safely.

“One of the significant changes that we’ve seen in consumer behaviour as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak is, unsurprisingly, a heightened awareness around health concerns, hygiene and physical distancing,” Ms Harrison said.

“As Australians begin to travel again, it is crucial that travellers feel confident to holiday safely, and that tourism businesses and their communities are ready to welcome them warmly but also safely.

“We want travellers to know it’s safe to travel and show how the Australian tourism industry is putting in place the highest standards and stringent COVID-safe measures to ensure their wellbeing and safety at every point in the customer journey. The portal will provide up to date, practical information relating to all aspects of travel in the one place to help people better navigate all of the different COVID-19 restrictions.”