NSW Trade Minister Stuart Ayres says Newcastle Airport is in the frame for financial support to secure a deal with Singapore Airlines' budget carrier, Scoot, for direct flights into the Hunter.
Mr Ayres was in Singapore on Monday to open a new government trade office and met members of a Hunter delegation promoting business, tourism and airline connections with the city state of 5.4 million people.
The minister announced that Singapore Airlines had secured funding under the government's $60 million Aviation Attraction Fund, a pandemic recovery measure, to increase its passenger capacity into Sydney.
Newcastle Airport chief executive Peter Cock said the airport was keen to access the fund to help get its negotiations with a Singapore-based airline over the line.
Mr Ayres said Newcastle was in the running to win such support, but he was not ready to announce a funding package yet.
"The fund's available for all airlines; it's not Sydney-specific," he said.
"We'll continue our discussions with Singapore Airlines about Newcastle.
"We're particularly interested in being able to get Scoot to fly into Newcastle.
"We're seeing Singapore Airlines later today ... and we'll be talking further with them about Newcastle."
The fund is designed to encourage airlines who quit NSW during the pandemic to restore services into Sydney and regional areas.
"Where airlines are looking at regional locations, we're very optimistic about what the Hunter provides," Mr Ayres said.
The federal government has committed $121 million to upgrade the Newcastle Airport runway and terminal to international standard but does not yet have a contract with an international carrier.
"The upgrades to Newcastle Airport do make a substantial difference around what aircraft can land there," Mr Ayres said.
"There's been a number of trade delegations, particularly interested in energy production, coming to the Hunter, but we also see the Hunter as a really strong tourism market.
"It's a high-yield market, so you're not talking about lower-cost travellers. You're talking about travellers spending higher dollars.
"Being able to reduce travel times by two, three hours does make a substantial difference with a direct flight into that location."
Mr Ayres said tourism and the Hunter's industrial base would drive visitor numbers.
"We think we'll have a big impact on being able to attract further tourism investment into the Hunter.
"So there's lots of reasons why we'd be continuing to promote Newcastle as a site for international airlines.
"What drives activity into Newcastle from an international perspective is going to be tourism and the industries that are based around Newcastle, so energy, defence are going to be critical."
The Hunter delegation, which includes Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer, Dr Cock, airport chair Kirby Clark and Business Hunter boss Bob Hawes, attended a cocktail reception at the Singapore High Commissioner's house on Monday night with Mr Ayres.
Cr Nelmes and Cr Palmer presented keys to the city to six prominent Singaporeans who attended University of Newcastle on Colombo Plan scholarships in the 1970s and 1980s, including former health, transport and national development minister Dr Khaw Boon Wan.
The delegation members have also met with Destination NSW staff in Singapore and local business and industry leaders.
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