New air services and resort on the cards for Whitsundays

NEW air services and a fully-integrated resort in Airlie Beach were just some of the grand plans for the region outlined in the newly-released Whitsundays Destination Tourism Plan.

The plan, created through a collaboration between Tourism Whitsundays, Tourism and Events Queensland and Whitsunday Regional Council, outlined the region’s key performance statistics as well as initiatives for the next five years.

The region exceeded its targets for both domestic and international visitors from 2014 to 2020 while domestic visitation for the year ending in December 2018 increased to a record 651,000 visitors.

However, visitors from China were down 21 per cent in the year ending in 2018 while German visitors were down 16.9 per cent and tourists from the United Kingdom were down 7.8 per cent.

CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler said the decrease could be due to a number of reasons, and although she recognised that coronavirus may have an impact in the earlier stages of this year she hoped tourism operators could push to work towards the developments in the new plan.

“The report is a really great tool for us to hone into opportunities over the next few years over tourism growth and development,” she said.

“We have so much potential on our mainland including Airlie Beach, Bowen and Proserpine.”

Among the priority areas outlined in the plan included building year-round affordable access to the region through new air services and improved roads.

Mrs Wheeler said more frequent flights and partnering with long-haul routes would remain a top priority to push up visitation.

“Our marketing activity is focused around access; we support the airports with that, and part of our objective is to look at additional flight opportunities,” she said.

“We need to look at hubs that have potential for domestic visitation and potential international visitation.”

Better aviation services were also outlined in the previous destination plan with a push for more domestic direct flights and charter flights from China and New Zealand through Whitsunday Coast Airport.

However, Mrs Wheeler said the focus remained on securing domestic flights and using both Whitsunday Coast Airport and Hamilton Island Airport as a final destination for long-haul flights.

A fully-integrated brand name resort development was also identified as a priority along with a community entertainment and events centre with the capacity to host larger events.

These developments were also outlined in the previous destination plan, but Mrs Wheeler hoped a renewed commitment would see something come to fruition that would benefit both residents and tourists.

“We’re keen to see the region have a convention facility and brand name hotel to help us market the Whitsundays,” she said.

“It (would) help us continue to grow as they’ve got marketing power that helps add to the region.”

Other areas for development included a food produce and tourist centre in Bowen, training courses the tourism industry to better accommodate Chinese visitors and a focus on sustainable tourism.

Mrs Wheeler said the report marked an exciting time in the development of the Whitsundays and she hoped it would help provide guidance for the region could continue to grow.

“We are in an ever-changing landscape and what happens one day to the next is different,” she said.

“As an organisation we are looking at how we can be agile and support the Whitsunday tourism industry the best way we can.”

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