The long-awaited arrival of a second passenger airline in Mount Gambier is expected to provide a welcome boost to regional tourism with more destinations for travellers on the horizon.

Qantas will begin operation from the Mount Gambier Regional Airport terminal on March 28 with five weekly return flights to both Adelaide and Melbourne.

While the region will be buoyed by a second service to those cities, it is the potential for expansion to more destinations that could provide the most significant boost.

Even though a Qantas plane is yet to land on the Mount Gambier tarmac, QantasLink chief executive officer John Gissing says it is already exploring that potential.

“We’re focused on adding new routes to regions that we think have genuine growth potential,” a spokesperson said.

‘Absolutely fabulous’

Limestone Coast Local Government Association (LCLGA) destination development manager Biddie Shearing said it would be a huge coup to connect with other airports in the country.

“It would be great to support our South Australian regional airports, like up to the Barossa, Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and even the Flinders Ranges,” she said.

“The ability to be more connected and to bunny hop around our state would be just absolutely fabulous.

“And for us, as a region right on the border, to be able to bring people across from Melbourne and introduce them to SA and then sort of send them off.”

Ms Shearing said the LCLGA would embrace any opportunity to link with destinations even further afield.

Ms Shearing says a second carrier could unlock new opportunities for the region.(ABC South East: Todd Lewis)

“We will work closely with the SA Tourism Commission to leverage those opportunities when they arise.”

Ms Shearing said the increase in fly-in services would help put the Limestone Coast on the map.

“Now we have the drop-down box that says MTG for both Rex Airlines and Qantas and while it is a little thing, that digital visibility can’t be understated,” she said.

More services to drive opportunities

A large uptake of air travel services in recent history has been from those travelling for business.

Ms Shearing believed an increase in services should drive opportunities in the region.

“We now have the flexibility to be able to go to a tradeshow and talk to potential conference organisers and say, ‘It’s smooth running, there’s two options to fly in and out of our region and we’ve got a fabulous new facility.'”

Rex holds ‘grave concerns’ about Qantas impact

Rex Airlines remains concerned about the arrival of Qantas carriers to regional centres such as Mount Gambier.

It believes QantasLink will have devastating impacts on long-term regional aviation.

Regional Express has called Qantas’s move an “attack”.(ABC South East SA: Sandra Morello)

“Qantas is trying to weaken Rex by attacking its profitable regional operations, even at the cost of heavy losses for itself,” said a spokesperson in a statement late last year.

“History has shown that once regional airlines are squeezed out, the loss is permanent and regional and rural communities suffer the consequences.”

However, Ms Shearing expected people to continue to support the airline and believed this would just create another option for consumers.

“We will now just have that choice for consumers at a time where domestic travel will increase.”