31/07/2017 - 15:02

Captain Cook to set sail for Rottnest Island

31/07/2017 - 15:02

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Captain Cook Cruises has today announced it will extend its ferry services to Rottnest later this year, joining Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries, which could create downward pressure on prices of trips to the island and boost jobs.

Sealink Travel Group’s Jeff Ellison (left) and Andrew Lane hope the increased competition will increase the accessibility as well as the affordability of trips to Rottnest Island. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Captain Cook Cruises has today announced it will extend its ferry services to Rottnest later this year, joining Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries, which could create downward pressure on prices of trips to the island and boost jobs.

As of November, Captain Cook Cruises will run a ferry service to Rottnest Island’s main jetty from Fremantle via the Quokka1, a 400-passenger high-speed water jet, expanding its portfolio of operations out of Barrack Street Jetty on the Swan River to several destinations.

It is the first time in almost 30 years that Rottnest Island will receive an additional ferry service operator in a market consisting of just two businesses – Rottnest Express, the original Rottnest ferry provider founded in the 1950s that runs out of Fremantle, and Rottnest Fast Ferries, which was established in the 1990s and departs from Hillarys Boat Harbour. 

SeaLink Travel Group, an ASX-listed tourist and travel services company, took over the Western Australia-based Captain Cook Cruises business in May last year (having owned the Sydney Captain Cook company since 2011).

Chief executive Jeff Ellison said expanding its operations to Rottnest was a logical step.  

“Rottnest is one of the jewels in the crown of Western Australia tourism and we believe it’s a natural addition to our business,” Mr Ellison told Business News.

“From the day we acquired Captain Cook it was our target to add Rottnest to our services.

“It’s a perfect fit with our river cruises up the Swan River and down to Fremantle, to be able to connect to Rottnest Island seamlessly will be a real advantage to visitors both interstate and international coming to WA.”

According to the state government, a total of 645,000 people visited Rottnest Island in 2016-17, a 6 per cent increase in visitation from the previous year.

SeaLink general manager WA Andrew Lane said the organisation recognised the potential to grow visitor numbers to Rottnest Island through increased accessibility.

“The tourism industry desperately needs these types of initiatives to increase tourism to the state; it’s such an important part of this economy, especially with the downturn in the mining sector,” Mr Lane told Business News.  

“Capacity has been an issue for the island - with more competition comes greater capacity, and with greater capacity and competition comes a downward pressure on pricing, which is also an issue.

“Rottnest is an iconic tourism destination; the ‘selfie with a quokka’ is going mad at the moment and we can add to that.”

Mr Ellison said SeaLink invested more than $6 million per annum into promoting the island destinations it travelled to and had built up connections with travel agents across Australia and the world.

“That’s where we believe we can actually grow this market,” he said.

“The more people that use our service means the average cost comes down and we can put more specials into the market … it’s dynamic pricing like the airlines do.”

Mr Ellison said SeaLink had a further five vessels it could potentially add to the Rottnest route in the future, if there was adequate demand. 

Scheduling and pricing for Captain Cook’s Rottnest service will be released closer to the start of operations.

Speaking at the announcement this morning, Premier Mark McGowan said Captain Cook’s expansion of services would create 20 new jobs to operate the ferry. In addition, he said, there would be a multiplier effect with the creation of jobs on the island as a result of increased visitation.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia added that it was necessary to increase accessibility and services to Rottnest if WA wanted to keep increasing visitation numbers to the island.

“The more people that visit Rottnest Island, the more dollars spent in local businesses both on the island and the surrounding ports,” Mr Papalia said.

“We need to ensure Rottnest Island remains competitive, relevant and continues to be a must-visit tourism destination.”

At the close of market SeaLink shares were down 0.7 per cent at $4.24 per share. 

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