China Southern Airlines flies Guangzhou to Cairns from Dec.
THE number of Chinese tourists travelling to the tropical north is expected to soar with the start of direct flights between mainland China and Cairns later this year.
China Southern Airlines will operate three flights a week from Guangzhou to Cairns from December.
A three-year deal was struck between the airline, the Queensland Government, Cairns Airport and Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
The services will be able to carry up to 33,000 passengers a year. The boost to the economy is estimated to be $30 million annually.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the new flights were the first secured through the Palaszczuk government’s Connecting with Asia fund.
“With the support of the Palaszczuk government, China Southern Airlines will fly the first-ever year-round service by a Chinese airline into Cairns,” she said.
“In the first year we expect these flights to bring more than 33,000 Chinese visitors to Tropical North Queensland, which in turn flows on to the local economy and supports jobs.”
Treasurer and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the new flights were a game-changer for the region.
“This is the first time we’ve ever been able to offer direct access to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef from mainland China,” he said.
CHINA SOUTHERN AIRLINES AGREEMENT
• Flights three times a week from December, 2017
• Direct from Guangzhou, city of 14 million people
• Three-year deal involving 33,000 seats a year
• Worth $30 million a year to region’s economy
• $10-$20 million route start-up costs
• Using Airbus A330-300 aircraft, about 260 seats
• Biggest airline in China
• Fleet of 700-plus aircraft
• 2000 daily flights to 208 destinations in 40 countries
• Carried 109 million passengers in 2015
Cairns Airport chief executive Norris Carter estimated the flights had the potential to generate up to $44.2 million a year and create nearly 300 new jobs.
He said it would enable Chinese visitors to spend more time holidaying in the region instead of travelling.
“The service will also open up new opportunities for our region’s high-quality primary produce to be exported to China, tapping into this enormous market through the China Australia Free Trade Agreement.”
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chairman Max Shepherd said it was “incredibly rewarding for the destination to finally have direct China services confirmed”.
He said the tourism industry had been lobbying for two- and-a-half years for the direct services.
“The establishment of scheduled services from the world’s largest tourism market will connect new consumers to Australia and create profound opportunities for the Tropical North Queensland industry.”
Barron River MP Craig Crawford said the flights “remove the complexity of connecting flights, which puts Cairns on a competitive pegging with destinations like Hawaii and Bali”.
Mayor Bob Manning said “this is what we’ve been working toward for a long time”.