China Southern Airlines will launch service to Cairns and increase flights to Brisbane as it continues a dramatic expansion of services to Australia.
The carrier – China’s largest international airline – will make Cairns its fifth Australian port with three weekly flights from its Guangzhou hub commencing in December, when it will also increase Brisbane flights from four times per week to daily.
The announcement, which comes less than a month after China Eastern announced its own Shanghai-Cairns flights, was hailed by Tourism Australia as a step toward a ‘tourism renaissance’ for tropical north Queensland, with Chinese visitors to Cairns already having increased by 39 per cent last year.
“The appeal is clearly there and, now, with this significant injection of air capacity, so is the improvement in air access we need from Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable overseas market,” Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy said.
China Southern has more than quadrupled its capacity to Australia over the past two years and has flagged plans for significant further increases, with flights expected to reach 110 per week by 2015 from 10 per week in 2009. The airline currently carries roughly one in five Chinese visitors to Australia.
Tourism officials see the growing Chinese middle class as the key to efforts to revive the struggling Australian tourism industry. Some 542,000 Chinese visited Australia last year, a 19.4 per cent increase over the previous year that made China Australia’s third-largest and fastest-growing in-bound market.
Australian tourism officials were in Guangzhou for the China Southern announcement, where they also unveiled a A$9 million marketing campaign. The deal includes partnership agreements with Destination New South Wales, Tourism Victoria and Tourism Western Australia. Tourism Australia said the partnerships were part of a “concerted move within the Australian tourism industry to speak with ‘one voice’ when marketing itself internationally in primary growth markets.”