David Penberthy: Are we back on the map? Does it make us less of a backwater if we suddenly have direct flights to places out of Adelaide? Do you feel better about the state that you live in? 8223-00-00. It’s described as something of a speed dating event. It’s a large industry forum called the World Route Development Forum where everyone gets together and presumably you make your pitch as to why you should get a flight from here to there. The from, here is Simon Birmingham’s concern, he’s the Federal Tourism Minister but in his most important guise he is a Senator for South Australia.

Senator, good morning to you.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning, good to be with you.

David Penberthy: So Minister, South Australia, we’ve never had a direct flight to the US, have we?

Simon Birmingham: No we haven’t. Certainly not to my knowledge and there has been huge growth in a steady and slow way, but huge growth over the last couple of decades since the international airport became fully functioning in Adelaide. And growth, to the extent of the airport, is upgrading it now and that’s fantastic. And this conference is a chance, whether it’s to the US or elsewhere around the world to really cement the work that Adelaide Airport and the South Australian Government have done in attracting flights into Adelaide over those years.

David Penberthy: So what does it mean — getting down to brass tax, when we say trying to attract business, attract flights. Is it- do we have to pony up money or do we just need to make a compelling pitch?

Simon Birmingham: First and foremost, it’s got to be compelling. You’ve got more than 3000 delegates from 160 countries, people from airlines, people from airports, all of them of course in the airports, bidding with the airlines to try to convince them to schedule more flights in and out of their airport and to get the biggest capacity into their cities as part of their tourism and trade baseline. Now of course, how do you convince them? Well in the long run it’s got to be sustainable, but sometimes you might pony up, as you say, with some marketing incentive or otherwise with the airline. But Australia’s traditionally fairly cautious in that sense because we do want to make sure that we’re not just handing cash over to international airlines, but actually attracting sustainable routes that are going to be there for the long-term.

David Penberthy: There’s been a lot of talk about the surge in Chinese tourism and obviously a lot of that into South Australia would be underwritten by the fact that China Southern and other, I think, other Chinese airlines now have direct flights from Adelaide to Shanghai and so on. Is the expectation Minister that if we manage to have that direct link to the states, that we could then campaign for a greater share of American inbound tourism to get the [indistinct] over here to look at KI and check out our wine regions and so forth?

Simon Birmingham: Definitely. We’ve invested in a real turbo charging of tourism campaigning in the US at a national level out of Tourism Australia, a revived Dundee campaign that was really innovative in the humour that it used and was launched during the Super Bowl last year. It attracted many millions of eyes and kids and we’ve seen some encouraging signs of that around the rest of the country. A bit of an inhibitor in terms of getting people directly to Adelaide, is of course that lack of direct flight and that becomes a bit more of a headache as you probably just experienced yourself Penbo.

David Penberthy: Tell me about it.

Simon Birmingham: It’s not just the tourism sector. You also have to look at what else is happening in the state. The work around defence industry, the Space Agency, work in medical research. All of that’s highly [indistinct] and so what we’d really hope to do is to make sure that the pitch that’s given while all of these people are in Adelaide, debating over flights, travelling all around the world, is to say to those big US contracts — well actually, it’s not just a tourism issue to build upon here, or opportunity, there’s big opportunities in those other sectors too.

David Penberthy: Senator Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time.

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