TOURISM Greater Geelong and the Bellarine (TGGB) has welcomed free car trips on the Spirit of Tasmania, as it could drive up demand ahead of the ferry service moving to Geelong next year.
Announced by the federal government earlier this month, the rebate in the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme (BSPVES) has been increased to $6 million, and will allow Spirit of Tasmania passengers to take a car, motorbike or pushbike for free on trips between March 1 and June 30.
Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line Company will move from Station Pier in Port Melbourne to Geelong’s Corio Quay in 2022, and TGGB executive director Brett Ince said the four months of free car and motorbike trips would encourage more travellers to use the ferry.
“What is great to see is that the Spirit of Tasmania is continuing to evolve their product, and work closely with the Geelong region ahead of their arrival in 2022,” he said.
“So we’re excited about the Spirit of Tasmania coming in, and if the Spirit can raise demand through some of these initiatives, we think that’s a really good opportunity for the region in the future.”
Mr Ince said having the ferry based in Geelong meant passengers could be encouraged to stay a night or two in the Geelong region instead of Melbourne before or after their journey.
“We know it may attract new visitors who may not have used the Spirit of Tasmania before. Many people who travel are travelling with caravans or RVs, and it makes it easily accessible to get to Geelong rather than going right into Melbourne. We’re actually quite excited about that; we know TT-Lines is.”
Mr Ince said TGGB had previously encouraged people from Tasmania to visit the Geelong region, particularly when Jetstar operated flights between Avalon Airport and Hobart about three years ago, and was continuing to do so ahead of the ferry’s move.
When travellers book their ticket, the BSPVES rebate will automatically apply to the purchase price of the ticket. The rebate boost means the ticket cost of an average standard vehicle will be free, representing an average saving of $240 return for travellers. Ticket prices for motorbikes and pushbikes will also be zero. Those travelling with a caravan or motorhome will also receive the average $240 return saving for their vehicle.
The subsidy will include passengers transporting an eligible passenger vehicle between King Island or the Furneaux Group and the mainland.
Assistant Minister for Industry Development Jonno Duniam said the federal government was serious about ensuring the competitiveness of key Tasmanian industries such as tourism.
“The coronavirus pandemic hit Tasmania’s tourism industry in an unprecedented way, with Spirit of Tasmania Bookings dropping by up to 85 per cent.”