Councils find a better way

Dubbo Regional Council, New South Wales, has been announced the winner of Economic Development Australia’s Excellence Award for Economic Development Initiatives in populations over 15,000.

Council was recognised for an innovative project which saw Dubbo City Regional Airport and the Dubbo region partner with Ballina Byron Gateway Airport and Fly Pelican to launch a new fight route that stimulated economic growth and tourism amid the initial pandemic of 2020.

Manager Economic Development and Marketing, Josie Howard, said, “It was a fantastic initiative that was born from a near-devastating decline in Dubbo City Regional Airport movements, patronage and revenue, as well as a steep decline in general visitation to the Dubbo region due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Taking a positive and innovative approach to circumstances that had just about brought the travel and aviation industries to their knees, Council worked closely with the both sectors to support regional travel and regional economies.”

The new partnership was strongly supported by both Dubbo Regional and Ballina Councils at a strategic and operational level, which included the delivery of destination marketing campaign activities that were very successful in converting the idea into a successful reality for visitors between both destinations.

Three months after the launch of the service, the average (aircraft) load factor for both directions was at 90 percent, with more than 1200 people using the service throughout the initial trial period.

At the end of the trial period, all parties agreed to extend the arrangement for another three months over summer, with the inclusion of an extra weekly service on the route.

“While COVID-19 was the catalyst for innovation – sustainability of the service has been key to the success of on ongoing gateway and flight route between two great destination regions.”

Dubbo Region Mayor, Stephen Lawrence, said the award was testament to not only local and industry innovation, it served as a motivator for making the best of a bad situation.

“I congratulate everyone involved in this great initiative on their well-deserved national recognition for their innovation, enthusiasm and resilience during what was a difficult time. This result has opened a destination gateway between two iconic and popular Australian regions.”