Councils Collaborating to Bring a New Flight Route to Dubbo

Fly Pelican

With an announcement from the QLD Government that it will be closing its borders to NSW, and the ongoing effects of COVID-19, Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) is looking at ways to capitalise on the momentum of the ‘holiday at home’ sentiment, and ensure the Dubbo region continues to be a thriving destination for travel, particularly within NSW.

Following a confidential report to its July meeting, Council’s Airport Advisory Panel committed to a partnered trial of a new flight route between Dubbo and Ballina (Byron Bay) to help stimulate the regional economy and increase access to domestic markets. Mayor of the Dubbo Region, Councillor Ben Shields, says the trial is a collaboration between Dubbo Regional Council, Ballina Shire Council and Fly Pelican.

“It’s more important than ever that communities, businesses and councils look at innovative ways to operate. By leveraging two strong tourism destinations, it’s proposed that the trial will provide direct access at an affordable price-point starting at $149 each way, and in turn, increase visitor spend in our local economy within NSW,” said Councillor Shields.

“In undertaking a well-considered, partnered approach, the trial will provide immediate stimulus and the opportunity for the partnering councils and airline to examine whether the route is supported by the community and is a viable opportunity for the long term. We are looking at increasing connection between two beautiful destinations with great nature-based, open air offerings – which are of great appeal to people in the current environment,” said Councillor Shields.

Director Culture and Economy Natasha Comber says the COVID-19 environment has delivered a surge in interest for regional travel, with the latest data from WOTIF showing that there has been a 260% increase for searches related to destination Dubbo, with Byron Bay experiencing a 200% increase in organic searches.

“We’ve seen an increase in visitation to the Dubbo region, 6% year on year to March and there is opportunity to strategically grow our visitor economy and support the region’s business during this period.  Whilst product development with the airline was important, the trial is just as much about creating a positive marketing opportunity for both destinations as it is for air travel,” she said

The trial had been developed in recent weeks and all partners will work together to continuously monitor the environment to ensure the trial can be flexible if required.  

“All partners are well aware that we are operating in a changing environment. Whilst opening direct access will create economic and social outcomes for communities in both destinations, we will continue monitoring the COVID situation and address any impacts to this trial, this includes agreed course of action to support refunds if mandatory travel bans are imposed by relevant government authorities,” said Ms Comber.

The strategic appeal of building a NSW-to-NSW route is in response to international and state travel restrictions, and about removing the need for travel via a metropolitan airport. DRC will work alongside Ballina Shire Council and Fly Pelican to develop the route, and market it to their respective destinations. Leveraging assistance from DRC’s Economic Development team, and Ballina Shire Council, the new destination will mean Northern Rivers residents will have access to a family-fun getaway in just 90 minutes.

Tickets start from $149 each way and are available at or through local travel agents. Flights starts from Friday 28 August. The trial is being supported with a passenger fee subsidy in line with adopted revenue policy to support new route development, in addition to a low-risk safety net shared between the two councils which has been based on the airline’s direct operational costs only. DRC has also written to the Federal Government asking for route development to be included in future funding programs.

Last Edited: 06 Aug 2020

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