Hotel developer Dr Jerry Schwartz is calling on NSW Premier Mike Baird to improve road and air access to Sydney’s Hunter region to boost the region’s visitor economy and tourism sector.

Speaking at the launch of the Hunter Valley Conference & Events Centre in February, Dr Schwartz told the  NSW that major infrastructure support to upgrade Cessnock airport and improve road access from Sydney is required if Hunter Valley tourism is to be transformed from a “cocoon to a butterfly”.

“The Hunter Valley has rich history and pedigree, high quality accommodation and restaurants, outstanding wines and a wide range of attractions, but I still believe that the region could be performing better.

“One of the key issues holding the region back is infrastructure – Cessnock Airport needs an urgent upgrade if we are to attract more high-yield groups, international tourists and corporate travellers.

“The airport should be upgraded to make it capable of handling commercial aircraft. This could open up a whole new access point for the Hunter Valley and maximise the potential of the region’s attractions.

“The building of the Hunter Expressway was a positive transport initiative for the region, but with the major market for the Hunter Valley being Sydney, there is also considerable scope for upgrading the route from the M1 to the wine region via Cessnock.”

Dr Schwartz praised Premier Baird and the NSW Government for the announcement of a $123 increase in tourism expenditure earlier this week, including $40 million extra for region tourism, over the next four years.

“We believe that the NSW Government has been very proactive in the tourism sector and its redevelopment of Sydney’s convention centre reflects its commitment to the conference and events industry.

“We look forward to hearing more about the regional tourism strategy as many areas in regional NSW have been suffering through economic downturn, and tourism offers a cost effective, sustainable solution for business and employment growth.”

The newly opened centre was developed by the Schwartz Family Company, which also owns the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Crowne Plaza Newcastle, Novotel Newcastle, the Lovedale Brewery and other property assets in the Hunter Valley as well as the six-star Sofitel Darling Harbour currently in development as part of the ICC Sydney.

Director of the  Schwartz Family Company, Dr Schwartz, said that the launch of the new centre would have a significant impact on the Hunter Valley’s ability to win major conferences and events.

“We have had a number of major plans for expanding this venue, but we have often found that reasonable requests have taken a considerable time to be approved.”