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Geelong Advertiser Opinion Piece - Lift off for Avalon is a lift off for Geelong

Avalon Airport's recently announced partnership with AirAsia re-positions Geelong as a global destination, and provides the impetus to strengthen our city-region's visitor economy. With over half a million international passengers expected to move through Avalon within its first year of being an international airport, it is important that Geelong's business community considers how it can support the airport by encouraging visitors to turn left down the highway and enjoy our specialturquoiselifestyle.

It is projected that, in the first twelve months of commencing international flights, AirAsia will have two daily services operating between Avalon and Kuala Lumpur. This equates to approximately 275,000 passengers each way. Significant growth is also expected, with the possibility of Avalon hosting multiple international airlines in the future, and the number of passengers projected to double within four years. AirAsia connects via Kuala Lumpur to more than 130 destinations spanning 25 countries, such as Bangkok and Manila, so our city-region will be even more internationally connected than before.

Transforming Avalon into an international airport will create up to 200 new permanent jobs for our city-region, with a $20 million extension planned to adapt the current terminal for international border patrol and customs. Furthermore, there is potential for an airport hotel to be located at Avalon's terminals - which would also mean more jobs and opportunities for our community and local businesses. Avalon's prime location of being situated 15km from Geelong could be leveraged to entice thousands of new visitors to our city-region. However, this may only happen if there is clear recognition that Avalon airport as an important economic driver for both our city-region and the State of Victoria.  The introduction of critical infrastructure and the use of innovative marketing is therefore vital to maximise all available opportunities. 

Geelong's business community can take direct action to ensure the AirAsia announcement does not lose momentum, and that our city-region is well-positioned to benefit from the inbound international visitors. For example, Geelong's short-stay accommodation sector has the opportunity to be further developed to host the large numbers expected to visit. Hotels, motels, and caravan parks will play a critical role in attracting AirAsia's passengers and showcase what Geelong's city-region has to offer. In addition, local businesses may be able to promote their products and services to incoming AirAsia passengers.

As evidenced in the Committee for Geelong's international research, 'Winning from Second: What Geelong can learn from international second cities,'a thriving visitor economy can transform second cities like Geelong, making them more accessible and desirable to international guests. Continued public and private investment in Geelong's visitor economy is therefore important in order to leverage our city's natural advantages, such Avalon Airport. In return, the visitor economy has the potential to create flexible and diverse employment opportunities, which benefits business and community members alike. Our research shows that, as a city's visitor attraction increases, so too does civic pride and support of local facilities, businesses, and infrastructure.

Geelong's business community will further thrive and benefit if there are innovative and collaborative approaches to promoting Avalon Airport as an important economic driver for Victoria's second city.  Doing this will also validate Geelong as a key international destination and prove that the sky is, in fact, no longer the limit.



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