Beginning December, the airline will fly passengers from Adelaide and Melbourne to Kangaroo Island.
From now until this Friday, passengers will be able to book flights from Adelaide at $99 one-way, or from Melbourne at $199 one-way – departing between 4 December 2017 and 30 April 2018.
The airline will thereafter offer “very competitive” flights from Adelaide to KI averaging $150, according to QantasLink CEO John Gissing.
The national airline will be a new competitor to Regional Express in the air – whose December prices range between about $130 and $360 from Adelaide to KI – and SeaLink ferries – $49 – on the ocean.
The announcement comes as $18 million state and federal government-sponsored upgrades to Kingscote Airport near completion.
The lengthened and strengthened Kingscote Airport runway means it can accept Qantas’ Q400 planes from Melbourne.
“This isn’t about cutting someone’s piece of the pie – this is about growing the pie and making sure we get more people from around the world to this amazing island,” Tourism Minister Leon Bignell told a press conference on the Kingscote tarmac.
The borders of Bignell’s parliamentary seat recently shifted to include Kangaroo Island – and become a nominally Liberal-leaning seat – as a result of the boundaries redistribution.
He said it was “a tremendous day for tourism in South Australia”.
Premier Jay Weatherill told assembled reporters: “The expansion of flights here to Kangaroo Island will create extraordinary opportunities for the tourism sector – also for our magnificent food and wine sector.”
“It also cements Kangaroo Island as the arrowhead for South Australia’s tourism industry.
“It comes up number one on the list of recognition amongst our Chinese tourists for icons in Australia.”
He said the announcement would open Kangaroo Island up to Qantas’ international network, to help market the tourist destination.
“This just represents another opportunity for people to get here affordably,” he said.
“It’s great for all businesses on the island.”
Asked whether the Government was content for international tourists to bypass other South Australian tourist destinations in favour of direct flights to KI, Weatherill said tourists could be wooed to try more of the state’s destinations once they arrive on the island.
He said the move would put South Australia on the “front end” of a trip for some international tourists, rather than at the end, after visiting higher-profile destinations Melbourne and Sydney.
“We often can be [at the end of international tourists’ trips] because the international destinations of Sydney and Melbourne are the places that tend to be promoted in those international airports,” said Weatherill.
“To be able to be at the front end of the trip means that the dollars are spent hear, and people spend more time here.
“Once you get them here, you get the opportunity to market the other [SA tourist destinations].”
Gissing said Qantas was “very excited about the opportunity here”, adding that Qantas was able to re-launch flights directly to KI after more than a decade because “we’re a different organisation, we have different relationships and we are very confident”.
Qantas briefly offered flights to Kangaroo Island in 2005, but abandoned the route.
“Kangaroo Island is just a short hop away from the mainland,” said Gissing.
“The island has huge potential for growth as a tourism designation and is a fast-growing premium travel market.
“Our flights will make Kangaroo Island more accessible, saving travel time and providing a new opportunity for our 11 million frequent flyers to use their points.”
SeaLink CEO Jeff Ellison told InDaily it recognises support the Government had given to Qantas’ expansion to KI – with the airport upgrade and “additional funds in marketing campaigns with Qantas for these new flights”.
“SeaLink is in discussions with Government regarding our further investments in Kangaroo Island including our ferry fleet, reduced fares and additional marketing of Kangaroo Island,” he said in a statement.
“SeaLink currently invests over $3 million in the promoting and selling of Kangaroo Island globally and will continue to do so in order to grow tourism.”
Asked whether Qantas’ announcement would have an impact on SeaLink’s employee numbers or services, Ellison said: “SeaLink has no plans to reduce services or staff numbers and will continue to work on plans to increase the 160,000 visitors we currently bring to Kangaroo Island – 25 per cent of which are from international markets.”
Kangaroo Island Mayor Peter Clements told InDaily the new flight route would help improve the island economy and support employment there.
“There will be additional work created by additional people coming through the airport,” he said.
“Most of this work will be in the hospitality area.”
Qantas flew a small media contingent, which included InDaily, in a 50-seater Q300 from Adelaide to Kingscote to mark the announcement. The flight took about 20 minutes each way.
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