The Great Ocean Road’s burgeoning international tourism market is expected to be further boosted with the beginning of international flights into Avalon Airport from Wednesday.
More than 500,000 international passengers are estimated to pass through the $46million facility in the first year, with tourism chiefs saying it will improve ease and accessibility to regional areas in the state’s west.
AirAsia is the first international carrier to be based at Avalon, offering flights to and from Malaysia with others watching closely and predicted to follow suit.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said it was incredibly significant for Victoria to have a second international airport.
She said it would increase overnight visitation in regional areas and boost regional economies. At the moment 97 per cent of international visitors lay their head down in Melbourne and getting them to stay overnight proved challenging. “Within the Shipwreck Coast area, the crucial issue is international visitation tends to be predominately day trips and that continues to beleaguer the region.
“Avalon provides the opportunity to engage with international visitors and makes it easier for them to organise multi-night stays in regional Victoria and visit key natural assets.
Five million people visit the Great Ocean Road (GOR) annually, which she said was more than the number of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru combined.
She said the GOR was experiencing tremendous growth in visitation and the increased number of tourists would provide a great boost to the regional economies. “The fact is there’s over 785,000 international day trips that come down to the Shipwreck Coast each year and that figure in 2026/27 is expected to grow in excess of 1.7 million people,” she said.
GOR Regional Tourism general manager Liz Price said it was a “huge opportunity” to build on an already strong Asian visitor market. “I think we have a real opportunity sitting on our doorstep of Asia to really be one of their go-to destinations,” Ms Price said. It makes the GOR region so much more accessible and really starts to position the region as somewhere you can get to. They don’t necessarily have to go into Melbourne to get access to regional Victoria.”
“The challenge for us is capitalising on that and encouraging people to turn left at Avalon and not turn right and head back into Melbourne.”
She hopes having “our own airport” will encourage visitors to venture further into the region and enjoy the diverse landscapes, wildlife, and food and wine we have to showcase.
“Trying to get people to stay longer and spend money is our number one challenge and disperse further into the region.
“We’re getting strong numbers to the 12 Apostles but we’d love them to go all the way to the South Australian border so Warrnambool, Moyne and Glenelg shires all benefit from that business.”
Avalon Airport chief executive Justin Giddings said the 9000 square metre terminal was just the beginning.
“This terminal has room for expansion, and we look forward to announcing further routes, and to housing further airlines in the future,” Mr Giddings said.
“Our mission is to be the best small airport in the world by providing passengers the service they expect of an international airport with the best price and greater efficiency.”
AirAsia X Malaysia chief executive Benyamin Ismail said since the announcement was made in February they had been ramping up its Victorian presence through a range of regional and state tourism marketing and branding partnerships alongside greater engagement with the local travel trade.
“This is a game changer for consumers, for tourism and for the industry. Just in time for the peak summer holiday period and before Christmas, affordable and hassle-free international travel from Avalon Airport in Victoria will become a reality.
“In preparation, we’re ramping up our presence in Victoria through a range of regional and state tourism marketing and branding partnerships alongside greater engagement with the local travel trade.
Linfox Airports executive chairman David Fox said the partnership was significant for not just Avalon Airport, but the entire region.
“These operations will produce a significant boost to jobs in the region, provide new tourism to regional areas, and provide an opportunity for exporters to have quicker and easier access to Asian markets,” Mr Fox said.
The terminal is state of the art with simple comfort for passengers, and plenty of space to expand once new airlines come on board. It includes two duty free stores, TRS facilities, a full bar and café, and is the first airport in Australia to offer intelligent CT cabin baggage screening to international travellers.
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