South Western Times - - Front Page - Kate Field­ing

Di­rect flights be­tween Mel­bourne and Bus­sel­ton have been la­belled a “game changer” for the South West and could ce­ment Bun­bury as a hub for vis­i­tors in a tourism boom for the re­gion.

While pas­sen­gers would be hit­ting the tar­mac fur­ther south, the eco­nomic boost to the Bun­bury Geographe re­gion would be huge, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try ex­perts.

The planned $60 mil­lion Bus­sel­ton-Mar­garet River Re­gional Air­port ex­pan­sion has stalled for sev­eral years but in a ma­jor mile­stone for the project, Bus­sel­ton Mayor Grant Hen­ley this week said a con­tract with an air­line was likely to be fi­nalised in com­ing months.

Mr Hen­ley said flights be­tween Mel­bourne could start within the next six to nine months, but it would also pave the way for di­rect routes from Syd­ney and in­ter­na­tional flights from Sin­ga­pore.

Aus­tralia’s South West says it would power a new tourism boom for the re­gion, with do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors flock­ing in record num­bers to take in the South West’s nat­u­ral at­trac­tions and winer­ies with­out the need to travel via Perth.

As the new-look Dol­phin Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre con­tin­ues to make its mark on the tourist scene and with ma­jor projects like an ar­ti­fi­cial surfing reef in Bun­bury planned for later this year, Bun­bury Mayor Gary Bren­nan said the city was poised to take full ad­van­tage.

“There’s all those at­trac­tions, as well as the Fer­gu­son Valley but for us, the Dol­phin Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre is becoming known in­ter­na­tion­ally,” Mr Bren­nan said.

“We’ve got the beaches, hope­fully the ar­ti­fi­cial surf AIR­WAVE project trial will prove to be suc­cess­ful – but apart from that, we’ve got world-class restau­rants in our city.

“Bun­bury can be a hub – and is a hub – for na­tional and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to jour­ney away from here and you’ve got some ex­cit­ing places to go, not only within the Bun­bury Geographe area, but also within the greater South West.

Bun­bury Geographe Tourism Part­ner­ship act­ing tourism mar­ket­ing and devel­op­ment man­ager Michelle Mc­Cully said the flights would pro­vide big ben­e­fits.

“We are continuall­y work­ing with our part­ners, Aus­tralia’s South West and the South West Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, to as­sist our tourism op­er­a­tors to be trade ready and cap­i­talise on op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Ms Mc­Cully said.

“Jet­star is one of the main play­ers in the tourism in­dus­try – the mar­ket­ing aware­ness gen­er­ated by their pres­ence in the re­gion would be enor­mous.”

It is un­der­stood Jet­star is most likely to snap up the Bus­sel­ton route. A deal with an air­line would un­lock about $13 mil­lion in State Gov­ern­ment fund­ing for a new ter­mi­nal.

WA Na­tion­als MP Terry Red­man said do­mes­tic and pos­si­ble in­ter­na­tional flights were a game changer for the re­gion.

“It has been pre­dicted that pro­vid­ing vis­i­tors a di­rect gate­way into one of WA’s top tourism des­ti­na­tions would pump an ex­tra $11.4 mil­lion into the South West econ­omy per year,” he said.

With earth­works and plan­ning al­ready done, a new ter­mi­nal could be built in about seven months.

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