June 3, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo

With this week’s announcement that the Spirit of Tasmania ferry will commence services from Geelong to Devonport from October 23 this year, Geelong is investigating business events opportunities from the expected influx of more than 450,000 ferry passengers a year.

Business Events Geelong’s Mark Day said that while it was a significant tourism boost for the city, he expected the bureau would work with its counterparts in Tasmania on the incentive opportunities presented by the new ferry base at Corio in Geelong.

“For the incentive market we see the opportunity for the Spirit of Tasmania to be not just a mode of transport, but an experience that opens up Geelong and the Bellarine and obviously the Great Ocean Road to groups from Tasmania. And we will work with Tasmania to help facilitate that,” said Day.

Day said the bureau would also work to maximise the opportunity for Melbourne incentive groups visitors to stay and experience all that Geelong and the Bellarine had to offer before or after their ferry trip.

The ferry service, which is a Tasmanian government enterprise, offers group rates for 15 people or more, with group dining facilities, lounges and bars. There are also two cinemas on board. There’s a range of cabin accommodation and allocated seating, including business class recliners. Each Spirit of Tasmania vessel can carry 1,400 passengers and 500 cars, plus road freight, effectively serving as the sea-road link between the mainland and the Apple Isle about 450km or nine hours’ sailing away.

While there was some concern on Melbourne talkback radio this week that the city’s residents would have to travel for an extra hour to get to the ferry, those living in Port Melbourne were happy that their streets would no longer be congested by ferry passengers with their cars, caravans and motorhomes in preparation for boarding. The new purpose-built $115 million Geelong ferry terminal is on 12ha with dedicated marshalling space for 600 cars and semi-trailers, plus 6,000m2 of undercover parking and a new passenger terminal with a comfortable lounge and café.

Meanwhile, two new larger ferries, Spirit of Tasmania IV and V, are being built in Finland to replace the current vessels and will each carry 1,800 passengers when they enter service across Bass Strait in late 2023 and 2024.