Newcastle Airport management hope direct flights to destinations like Hobart, Adelaide, Auckland or major regional cities along the east coast will eventuate from the NSW government's tourism support package.
The $500 million suite of initiatives announced on Wednesday, headlined by $250 million worth of $50 accommodation vouchers for NSW residents, has been praised by Hunter business and industry group leaders.
Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said the package appeared to offer a wide array of support and would prompt flow-on benefits for all aspects of the decimated tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries.
"It is targeting some of those sectors that have been really hard hit," he said. "And it's recognised that there is quite a broad spectrum of operators in the tourism and event sectors that are going to very much part of bringing the state back to what it was."
The package includes a $60 million Aviation Attraction Fund, which when first announced was described as money to help incentivise international airlines re-commence flights to Sydney. However, the fund applies to Newcastle Airport as well, and could also help incentivise new domestic routes.
Newcastle Airport CEO Peter Cock said the fund could enable an interstate route in the short term, but also help land an international route for when the runway at Williamtown is upgraded.
"Airports have a unique ability to generate economic activity. Connecting ourselves to new cities such as Auckland, Adelaide and Hobart will have an immediate and significant effect on the local economy," he said.
"More importantly, in two years' time we will be able to fly long-haul international flights into Newcastle Airport. With the government support announced today, our chances of securing a connection to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur have grown significantly.
A NSW government spokesperson said the fund would "support airlines wanting to fly to Newcastle" but the funding would ultimately "prioritise international airlines".
Mr Hawes said the Queensland government had been financially backing flights into its state for years, with Jetstar's Newcastle to Carins service launched earlier this year an example of how support could help get a new route off the ground.
"When they got that Cairns route up, it was an instant success, but prior to that everyone's concern was will the tickets sell, will the planes fill up? So getting to airports like Perth and Adelaide direct, or even other major regional destinations, become realistic opportunities if you've got the ability to underwrite your business case."
Mr Hawes said he was pleased the NSW government had confirmed Newcastle would be eligible for funds from the $50 million allocated to the CBDs Revitalisation Program.
He was confident the $50 accommodation vouchers, which were adopted following the success of the Dine and Discover program, would motivate people to travel over summer.
"The lesson that's come out of Dine and Discover is, even though it's a $25 voucher, the value of what is actually being spent in the total transaction is enhanced," he said.
Other elements of the government's tourism support package include:
- $150 million to support the recovery of major events activity across the state, including $50 million for a Regional Events Package;
- $25 million for the Festival Relaunch package;
- $10 million for a Recovery Marketing Campaign;
- $6 million to bring business events back to Sydney.
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