Tourism Minister Paul Papalia has reiterated his position on the future of the Busselton Margaret River Airport, stating he supported the project but that a lack of commitment from airlines was the driving factor behind delays to completing the terminal.
“The demand is simply not there,” Mr Papalia told the Mail while in Margaret River on Friday to announce the Western Australia Gourmet Escape Festival.
“It would be great if the airlines were interested but unfortunately there is no sound business case for them at the moment.”
He said the potential for a Qantas pilot training academy in Busselton was a bright spark on the horizon which could lead to more interest from airlines if established in the region.
Tourism WA chairman Nathan Harding echoed the claims, saying meetings with numerous international carriers were held regularly to discuss flights into locations across WA.
“I have been in these meetings and heard the concerns, and put simply there are not yet enough passengers to make it viable for the airlines to commit to regularly servicing the area,” he said.
Mr Papalia said he recently visited India with representatives from ‘Team Perth’ to talk to airlines and open the discussion about establishing direct routes to Perth.
‘Team Perth’, is a group which regularly meets with airlines, shares information and seeks opportunities to grow aviation access to WA.
Tourism Australia has also provided backing across a range of aviation initiatives and is supportive of the western gateway strategy.
Current opportunities being explored include China, Japan, India and Europe.
A $30 million partnership between the State Government,Tourism WA and the Perth Airport announced on Saturday was branded a “slap in the face” to the people of the South West by Nationals Member for the South West Colin Holt MLC.
Mr Holt said at a time when our regional economy desperately needed jobs and an economic boost the project would provide, the McGowan government was shovelling money to the city by providing what it describes as “a pot of gold at the end of the runway” for Perth.
“Meanwhile South West tourism operators languish and visitor numbers stagnate,” he said.
“The Minister for Regional Development’s threats about ‘making hard decisions’ about the project is making it exceedingly hard to negotiate with airline service providers.
“This is another example of the Labor Government putting Perth over the regions, the people have every right to feel outraged. The airport terminal must proceed to boost the ability to negotiate with airlines and open up the tourism, freight and exporting opportunities.”