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Newcastle major international airport to revive tourism

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Jun 10, 2008

An extra $40 million in tourism funding for NSW could turn Newcastle into a major international airport if advice from events guru John O'Neill is heeded.

Tourism Minister Matt Brown yesterday announced the financial boost in response to the Events NSW chairman's long-awaited report into the struggling sector.

Industry experts will work together over the next three months to formalise a strategy to combat the problems tourism faces.

These include rising fuel costs, the strong Australian dollar and the introduction of new taxes adversely affecting the industry.

It will consider forming a Sydney Tourism-type body, funding increases to regional areas, developing Brand Sydney guidelines and focusing on emerging markets such as India and China.

NSW has been losing share of the Australian tourism market for seven years, the report said.

While the state previously benefited from drive-through visits by travellers driving from the southern states to Queensland, people now are more likely to fly.

It also found Sydney residents are more likely to travel interstate than go to regional NSW and they would rather travel overseas than within their home state.

Mr O'Neill recommended lowering the cost of transport to regional NSW, focusing on educational tourism and forming a peak body, such as a NSW Tourism Council, to advise the minister.

He also wants to see Newcastle as a significant international airport, with improved ground transport to boost surrounding regions.

He said land should be put aside so extra runways can be built and the Government should negotiate with the RAAF and Department of Defence.

Mr O'Neill was engaged by Premier Morris Iemma more than a year ago to review the state's tourism strategy.

The funding, approved by cabinet yesterday, comes in addition to the $85 million over three years to establish Events NSW and the $43.7 million approved for Tourism NSW in the 2008/09 budget.

The news was greeted by a round of applause from industry leaders who gathered at Tourism NSW's annual briefing at Star City casino.

"There's never enough money but $40 million over three years is about what we asked for," said Tourism and Transport Forum managing director Chris Brown.

Newcastle major international airport to revive tourism

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