Suzy McDonald has just opened a Calypso Resort and Swimwear store at the Port of Airlie development, confident tourism will again boom at Airlie Beach.
Suzy McDonald has just opened a Calypso Resort and Swimwear store at the Port of Airlie development, confident tourism will again boom at Airlie Beach. Tom Williams

Flights vital to tourism

A PUSH has begun to bring back direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to the Whitsunday Coast to help boost tourism at Airlie Beach.

Whitsunday Mayor Mike Brunker said the council would “certainly be” pushing for the direct services after an Airlie Beach business owner said they were needed to help tourism take off.

Suzy McDonald has just opened a Calypso Resort and Swimwear store at Meridien’s Port of Airlie Development and is confident of good times ahead but said the direct flights would give Airlie Beach businesses a real boost.

Although there are direct flights available from Sydney and Melbourne to Hamilton Island, Ms McDonald said it was important the Whitsunday Coast Airport had some of its own.

She said stopping in Brisbane was inconvenient for Sydney and Melbourne travellers, who had access to direct flights to and from destinations like Fiji and Bali.

“We do need direct services from Sydney and Melbourne to here... I think direct flights would really help this area.”

Cr Brunker said the council would push for direct flights to places like Sydney and Melbourne and would next week interview potential development managers for the airport.

“We believe the business is there,” he said.

“The flights there a couple of years ago were 80% full but didn’t have the yield.”

Cr Brunker said direct flights were more likely to be a reality when activity at Abbot Point ramped up. He said it was difficult for airlines to rely solely on tourists, so an influx of mining and industrial workers would make it more viable.

Cr Brunker said global issues, such as the high Aussie dollar, were affecting tourism in the Whitsundays but said investment from business owners like Ms McDonald was very positive.

Ms McDonald seems to have a knack for picking top tourist destinations and is confident her business venture at the Port of Airlie will pay dividends.

“I feel it will pay off,” she said. “I started at Sanctuary Cove before anybody else... I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I go with my gut feeling. I actually bought land in Port Douglas before (Christopher) Skase and I felt it about Sanctuary Cove and everybody told me you’re crazy.

“We’ve got beautiful islands here, so why not invest in here?”


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