Demand for direct flights from China to Cairns takes off
BUSINESS and tourism leaders have given the thumbs up to direct flights from China, saying inbound flights were "consistently full".
One month into the Cairns-China direct flight links, the anecdotal evidence of benefits to the region has been positive.
"To date the service has been well utilised with the inbound flights consistently full and good load factors on the outbound flights,'' Cairns Airport CEO Kevin Brown said.
"Maintaining outbound passenger numbers is crucial to the success of the service.''
Mr Brown said both China Eastern and China Southern, which will begin trial flights from Guangzhou in January, would "further strengthen Cairns's position as the Asian gateway to Australia''.
"China has proven to be the fastest growing international visitor market for Tropical North Queensland in the past couple of years, even without direct services, so it is very realistic to expect even stronger growth with direct flights,'' he said.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief Rob Giason said he had been impressed with the inbound flight loadings from China, estimating they were at more than 80 per cent capacity.
"Our anticipation of a good pick-up has certainly materialised in the sense of the market,'' Mr Giason said. "I think there's continued and heightened enthusiasm among trade and industry.''
Mr Giason said tourism operators remained "focused'' and "pleased'' with the influx of Chinese tourists into the region, helped along by a recent boost in visitor numbers due to the solar eclipse.
"We've really got ambitious growth plans for China to grow the market up to 200,000 visitors by 2015,'' he said.
"We're halfway there now, but a lot of work needs to be done. We will have to build on the capacity that we've currently got and hopefully get additional capacity into the future.''
Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO Debbie Hancock has received positive feedback from local businesses capitalising on the new wave of Chinese visitors to the city.
"We welcome their visitation and the Cairns Chamber encourages businesses to learn about cultural considerations to leverage goodwill and great word of mouth within China,'' Ms Hancock said.
She cited Pullman Cairns International general manager Craig Syphers, who said the hotel had experienced "increase in room nights sold to guests from mainland China of more than 50 per cent".
China Eastern Airlines' tri-weekly services from Shanghai to Cairns began at the end of October. The airline has announced it will extend its trial period to September next year. China Southern begins its four-week direct flights trial from January 29.
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Happy holidayers: Hedy Cheng, Hei Ho and White Au enjoy their time in Cairns.