THE Great Keppel Island redevelopment could give Rockhampton Airport the bargaining chip it needs to secure the return of budget airlines like Jetstar and Tigerair Australia.
Rockhampton Councillor Neil Fisher joined several local politicians on Great Keppel Island on Saturday as part of Our Keppel Our Future's continued campaign for a boutique gaming license to be granted to the proposed redevelopment.
Speaking to the hundreds assembled, Cr Fisher said increased numbers of people travelling for holidays, not business, were needed to secure a new airline in the region and new destinations.
Cr Fisher yesterday told The Morning Bulletin the airport had a loss of over 100,000 passengers annually in the years after the resort's closure.
He said the drop in passengers, along with better opportunities in other destinations, drew both Jetstar and Tigerair away from Rockhampton around 2010.
Cr Fisher said currently more than 60% of people using the Rockhampton Airport were travelling for business purposes.
And while airlines enjoy this strong client base, Cr Fisher said discussions on new destinations with airlines wouldn't even be on the agenda without equally strong travel for lifestyle tourism.
"Going away for that holiday … that's the market the Jetstar's and the Tigerair's are really look for and we don't have that at the moment," Cr Fisher said.
"That's an area we've identified we need and Great Keppel Island could be the catalyst for the Melbourne to Rockhampton flight and the Sydney to Rockhampton flight."
While any announcement would not have an immediate impact, Cr Fisher said they would be in talks with airlines to start planning for increased tourist numbers.
"The day that the Premier makes that announcement, I believe we would be on the phone talking to the airlines," he said.
Cr Fisher was joined at the rally by Cr Rose Swadling, Livingstone Shire Mayor Bill Ludwig and Rockhampton-based LNP Senator Matt Canavan, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.
Cr Ludwig said the island had been one of the "jewels in the crown for Central Queensland", with international recognition during the Get Wrecked campaign of the 1980s.
It's something Cr Ludwig believes could be on the cards for the island in the future.
"It will put the Capricorn Coast and the region well and truly not only on the national, but on the international map," he said.
"2016 has to be the year when this project starts full construction and our council, and I'm sure our community, will be right behind that.
"I'm sure they'll hear the cheers down in Brisbane and Sydney and Canberra when that happens."