China Southern airlines announces flights to Cairns
CHINA'S biggest airline will bring up to 800 passengers to Cairns a week, prompting what business leaders believe will be a "tourism renaissance".
China Southern yesterday confirmed it would launch tri-weekly flights into the city before the end of the year, trialling a service it hoped would become permanent.
The news, revealed online by The Cairns Post yesterday afternoon, comes less than a month after China Eastern announced direct flights to Cairns from Shanghai.
Cairns business and civic leaders said the economic windfall from the flights could eclipse the benefits enjoyed after Japanese airlines began links to the city in the 1990s.
"The enormity of this is something we will have never seen before," Cairns Mayor and former airport boss Bob Manning said.
"You can’t help but think that we could be seeing a resurgence in tourism and business that replicates what happened when Japan carriers began coming here.
"But in the case of the Chinese, it will be much bigger. This is going to really blossom."
Tourism Australia and China Southern chief executive Tan Wangeng yesterday jointly announced the airline would operate tri-weekly services from Guangzhou, starting on December 18, on a four-month trial timed to include Chinese New Year celebrations in Cairns.
The flights, due to operate on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, will arrive via Brisbane, but the home-leg will fly directly to China.
The arrangement follows years of negotiations between Cairns Airport officials and China Southern executives.
It is understood the China Southern flights will have the capacity to carry about 800 passengers into Cairns each week.
During the visit, Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy and Mr Tan also signed a new marketing agreement worth more than $9 million to jointly promote Australia in China.
Mr McEvoy said the new announcement could lead to a "tourism renaissance" in the Far North, which had struggled with the high Australian dollar and recovery efforts since cyclone Yasi.
"With Chinese visitors to Cairns up nearly 40 per cent last year, the appeal is clearly there," he said.
China Southern is the leading carrier on the China-Australia route, carrying 22 per cent of all Chinese tourists to Australia last year.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Rob Giason said it was now up to local businesses and tourism operators to help fill the flights and extend the four-month trial.
"It’s game on with regards to the China market and it’s something that we’ve been waiting for," he said.
In the year ending March, 88,000 Chinese visitors travelled to the Far North.
"Our challenge is to make sure we do our best to lay out the welcome mat and offer them an experience they’ll never forget," Senator Jan McLucas said.
State Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey will be in Cairns today as part of a forum to help the city prepare for Chinese travellers.
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Flying high: China Southern airline will fly to Cairns.