The announcement of new, direct China Southern Airlines flights from Guangzhou to Cairns is a fantastic boost for northern Queensland tourism businesses, ATEC Managing Director, Felicia Mariani said today.
"Direct China Southern flights will connect Cairns with the third largest city in China and help open up the growing potential of China's return visitor market," Ms Mariani said.
"We know the travelling market is strong out of China, with 100 million Chinese expected to be travelling internationally by 2020; with Australia due to increase its Chinese arrivals by a further 12%, exceeding the million visitor mark over this period.
"With this kind of outbound growth from such a key source market, direct airline capacity to Australia is crucial to our optimising these opportunities.
"Return visitors from China are also on the rise and Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) is in the driver's seat in appealing to the maturing demands of this market with the incredible nature, wildlife and outdoor activities on offer."
Ms Mariani said a shift is occurring in Chinese visitors looking to experience more than group tours to major capital cities can offer them. These new direct services with China Southern Airlines will help support more travel to regional areas by this burgeoning independent travel market.
"Direct airline access is a vital component in encouraging a growing return market and is highly appealing to independent travellers who are seeking an alternative Australian destination.
"Research currently shows that the independent Chinese market is growing, with less than 28% of Chinese visitors now travelling on a group package tour.
"North Queensland has seen a significant increase in Chinese visitor arrivals over the past three years, up from around 73,000 in 2011 to more than 100,000 in 2012 – and this announcement will further enhance these growing numbers.
"This is a significant win for North Queensland tourism businesses and ATEC congratulates the efforts of Cairns Airport in securing these services for the region.
"The work that has gone into winning these direct services acknowledges the importance of the tourism economy as a strong contributor to both local communities and our overall national export offering.
"With Chinese visitors clearly outspending any other market and forecast to grow by a further 10%, this market is vital to supporting the industry's Tourism 2020 goals.
"The tourism industry is one of the mainstay industries of our economy, delivering significant value at both a state and federal level, and directly employing around half a million Australians.
"Supporting new airline access and greater connectivity with China and other Asian markets is an important step in building on the strong and growing opportunities Australia has as a significant exporter of tourism."