Sunshine Coast tourism set to soar

The Sunshine Coast seeks to bounce back amid the coronavirus pandemic with a new airport runway and direct flights to Cairns.

The Sunshine Coast is doing its part to help Queensland’s struggling tourism industry by launching a new direct service from the Sunshine Coast Airport to Cairns. 

The service, which is a joint venture between the Sunshine Coast Airport, the Queensland Government and Alliance Airlines, allows Queenslanders in the far north and south-east to experience faster and more convenient travel. 

Flying three return services per week from 17 July, the flights will connect two of the state’s highest value tourist destinations as Queenslanders are encouraged to undertake domestic travel. 

Sunshine Coast Airport Chief Executive Officer Andrew Brodie said Cairns was a highly requested destination from locals. 

“… For the first time ever, this service will provide direct access to world-renowned natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest,” Mr Brodie said. 

“Expected to service up to 40,000 passengers every year, it is also great news for local tourist operators due to deliver a much-needed $2.8 million injection of tourism spend in the Sunshine Coast region.

“We anticipate it will be popular among southerners who are starting to emerge out of isolation into a long winter.”

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Visit Sunshine Coast Chair David Ryan said the flights and a new international-standard runway would be a gamechanger for the region’s tourism industry as it would directly open up the Sunshine Coast to the world.

“This will allow the Sunshine Coast to target new international and domestic markets and attract more visitors, with the increased ease of accessibility making the region even more desirable for leisure and business travellers,” Mr Ryan said.

“This will significantly benefit the local economy … The new airport will allow for larger aircraft, increasing the export opportunities from the Sunshine Coast. 

“The airport will also likely help play a role in supporting the region’s tourism industry as we move towards recovery from COVID-19.”

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Mr Ryan said the impact COVID-19 has had on the region’s tourism industry was extraordinary.

“Only now are we starting to see signs that we are moving towards recovery, as restrictions begin to ease in Queensland,” he said.

“We are currently targeting the intrastate market - which in the year ending December 2019 delivered 2.9 million visitors to the Sunshine Coast.

“But the reopening of Queensland’s borders in line with the State Government’s easing of restrictions will play a critical role in our recovery as traditionally we see visitors from our southern states and New Zealand visit the Sunshine Coast in the winter months.”

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The new service to Cairns comes after the Sunshine Coast Airport welcomed the arrival of the first flight on its new $334 million runway on 14 June. 

The Alliance Airlines Fokker 100 flight was the first to touchdown after the airport closed for nearly three months due to COVID-19. 

Mr Brodie said the effects of COVID-19 crippled their industry and the broader regional economy. 

“The new runway paves the way towards brighter new horizons which I know will come soon,” he said.

“It will enable us to welcome wide-bodied aircraft, allowing us to fill bigger planes with more people and access more domestic and, in time, international destinations direct from our doorstep.

“It also signifies the start of many new beginnings, as in the next two decades, we’ll invest $200 million into this airport through the delivery of new infrastructure, like redeveloping our terminal, establishing a dedicated freight facility and developing our Gateway precinct.”

Alliance Airlines launch fares are on sale now and start from $125 one-way. All fares included 20kg free checked baggage. To book, visit AllianceAirlines.com.au.

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