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SeaLink Boss Jeff Ellison Off With The Ferries

Friday 22 August 2014

Publication: The Australian
Journalist: Lisa Allen

A JUMP in ferry passengers to Kangaroo Island and the signing of more government contracts on Sydney Harbour helped to offset long-running declines in Euro­pean backpacker arrivals to north Queensland, diversified tourism operator SeaLink says.

Releasing its results yesterday, the Adelaide-based group, which will sport a ferry fleet of 27 vessels by year end, reported a 13.6 per cent rise in revenues for the year to June 30 to $103.8 million, given higher contributions from its Captain Cook Cruises operations. Passenger numbers rose more than 18 per cent on the previous year.

SeaLink declared a final dividend of 3.7c payable on October 15 after achieving a net profit ­before tax of $10.3m, up 30 per cent. After-tax profit jumped 3 per cent to $7.2m.

This was despite lower sales from its retail travel centres, which dropped $1.2m, and the closure of its Ski Connection business during the year.

“Retail centres are under constant review as tourists and locals book more of their holidays ­directly through the internet,” SeaLink said. While Townsville’s backpacker market remained flat, SeaLink managing director Jeff Ellison told The Weekend Australian, the non-performance had been offset by an increase in ferry services to Palm Island.

“Queensland results did grow overall … (although) European economies are flat and hence backpackers are not travelling as much,” he said.

“But Asia has gone very well; it’s our fastest growing market. China is a key market for us.”

SeaLink is pinning its hopes on the growing Chinese market, given government forecasts that inbound Chinese arrivals will rise from 800,000 a year to 1.9 million a year by 2020.

“On Sydney Harbour we take up to 1000 Chinese on tour groups every day on Captain Cook Cruises,” Mr Ellison said.

“In South Australia, they are small family groups of middle-class Chinese who are reasonably wealthy; they will hire a car and travel around.”

In Sydney, SeaLink’s revenue growth was driven by new contracts with Harbour City Ferries, the Biennale Festival and the Sydney Convention Centre.

SeaLink would also look for more acquisitions in the tourism and transport industry, it said.

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