ABELL Point Marina owner Paul Darrouzet is already noticing an increase in forward bookings from Melbourne customers.
Mr Darrouzet says this business boost is thanks to the launch of Jetstar’s direct Melbourne flights, the first of which arrives today.
“Already we’re noticing more Melbourne visitors wanting to come because the flights are available for them now,” he said, noting Hamilton Island was previously the only direct gateway choice.
“(So) it’s allowing these people to access a greater range of (Whitsunday) mainland experiences, opportunities and choices,” he said.
Today’s inaugural flight, touching down in Proserpine at 10.30am, marks a milestone moment for the many local business people, tourism operators and individuals who have campaigned long and hard for increased air access from the southern states.
In 2012, local real estate agent Brad Sobott ran an “Airport to Airlie” marathon as a community fundraiser for the cause and today he says he couldn’t be more proud.
“I think the town is reaping the rewards already from the (Tiger) Sydney flight and there are a lot of Melbourne investors seeing the benefit of the new (Jetstar) flight and talking about the lifestyle aspects here – especially in the winter months,” he said.
“Just in the tourism sense there are already a lot more people in town than there were a year ago and you only need to be at the airport in the mornings to see that.”
As well as bringing more than 100 new visitors to our shores, today’s plane is carrying about 30 Melbourne-based leisure travel agents and business event organisers.
This group is set to enjoy a two-day visit, hosted by Whitsundays Marketing & Development (WMDL) and including a number of site inspections and meetings with local suppliers.
Mayor Jennifer Whitney, who will be at the airport to welcome the flight, said over the two days there would be a particular focus on Airlie Beach and Daydream Island, with WMDL promoting the region’s key infrastructure and products.
“It is fantastic that we are able to more readily expose our region to (the) Melbourne market thanks to the new Jetstar direct flights,” she said.
Jetstar Australia and New Zealand CEO David Hall, who is also on today’s first flight, said the airline had already seen strong bookings for the winter school holiday period “and this demand continues towards the end of the year”.