The Hobart Airport runway extension will provide new tourism and trade opportunities for the state.

As Hobart Airport celebrates the extension of its runway this week, the occasion marks more than the successful end of the project.

While it may simply seem like an extra 500 metres of tarmac for many, that additional length will open up direct access from Hobart to the global market.

The $40 million runway extension signals the airport’s new capability for direct flights to Asia, creating significant tourism and freight opportunities for the state.

It also confirms Hobart as the gateway to the Antarctic, providing a logistics hub and aviation capability for the Antarctic Aviation Program.

With the project completed ahead of schedule in early 2018, Hobart Airport has now turned its attention to harnessing the potential the longer runway provides the state.

But as it moves to the exciting next phase of its growth plans, it’s worth noting the success of the project construction.

For project director Will Davies, balancing the complexities of a project requiring multiple approvals and extensive stakeholder consultation – all while completing the works at an operational airport – was part of the project’s appeal.

A clear road map outlining the various requirements and timeframes guided the project team, with works impacting the runway itself being carefully sequenced to keep the airport operating.

“We had amazing support from all the stakeholders, which ensured these disruptions were fully considered prior to implementation, well communicated and minimised where possible,” Davies said.

The project consisted of two key packages of work, with landside works creating a new road to make room for the southern extension.

The new road provides the community of Seven Mile Beach a new route to access the Tasman Highway, while also providing alternative access to the airport, improving traffic circulation throughout the precinct.

The airside works included extending the runway pavements, with a 150m extension to the north and 350m extension to the south.

The airfield ground lighting system was also modified and extended to meet the new runway requirements, while ILS and DVOR navigational aids were relocated and upgraded.

Davies said successfully implementing, and later removing, displaced thresholds at each end of the runway were major milestones.

And, he says, the outcome has ensured Hobart Airport is poised for further growth in the future.

“Put simply, it means aircraft can travel further from Hobart with a viable payload,” Davies said.

“We can receive tourists directly from Asia, send freight and produce directly to market in Shanghai and can better meet the demands for the Antarctic Aviation Program.”

For Hobart Airport chief executive Sarah Renner, the project’s success is just the beginning, with the extended runway creating a range of new opportunities for both the airport and Tasmania’s tourism and trade industries.

The airport’s Board has just approved the development of a freight handling facility that will leverage off the new international services the runway extension enables.

The $13 million facility would allow local producers to export their products directly overseas, rather than through the mainland ports of Melbourne and Sydney.

Renner said the new facility would significantly reduce the time and cost associated with international transit for Tasmanian businesses, making export a more viable option for many.

“This new facility will cut out many restricting factors Tasmanian producers currently face when exporting from our island state,” Renner said.

“Imagine a punnet of berries hand-picked from a farm in the Coal Valley one day, and then being purchased at a market in southern Asia the very next. The possibilities this will open up are immense.”

As work continues to identify the best location for the freight facility, the airport is also creating a parking area for widebody aircraft.

The task then is to secure the much sought-after international services for the state. Renner said talks have already commenced with carriers serving key international markets – including Tasmania’s third largest source of international tourists, Hong Kong.

Strong growth in Chinese visitation to the state, along with Tasmania’s close proximity to New Zealand, highlights the wide range of options available to explore.

The talks also come at a time where the international appeal of Tasmania is particularly high, with 17 per cent growth in international visitors in the 12 months to September 2017.

With the local visitor economy already generating $2.3 billion per year, the potential impact of further growth can’t be underestimated.

“Tasmania is high on the list for many international tourists and direct services from Asia would make the state an even more attractive destination,” Renner said.

“The tourism and trade benefits we can deliver for our state are immense and we’re excited by the prospect of creating new opportunities for Tasmanians with the arrival of international services.

“While there is still a great deal of work to do, we look forward to being part of our state’s economic growth as we build on the opportunity before us today.”