China’s largest airline has made a fourfold increase in direct flights to Australia in preparation for a future boom in Chinese tourists.
Last year 366,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia and spent $2.8 billion, and this year China overtook Japan to become Australia’s fourth-largest source of tourists, behind New Zealand, Britain and the US.
China Southern Airlines president Tan Wangeng hopes to capitalise on the growth of wealth in China’s middle class and confidence in the stability of Australia-China relations under the Gillard government.
”1.3 billion Chinese people have become rich; they need to travel abroad and they need to consume their money,” Mr Tan said.
”Why Australia? … Australia is well endowed with tourism resources, the climate is different to China and the people of Australia and China are friendly without any conflict,” he said.
To visit Australia all international travellers, unless they have an Australian or New Zealand passport, must have an Australian Travel Visa. The most popular of these is the ETA Visa, which can be quickly and easily applied for online.
A Chinese tourism boom is expected to revive Australian destinations hit by a drop in Japanese tourists and the relatively high spending rate of Chinese tourists in Australia means China is forecast to be the highest-value market within seven years.
”Three years ago we used to talk about China as an emerging market, but it has fully emerged,” said Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy.
By 2020, Mr McEvoy predicts some 830,000 Chinese travellers will be spending $8 billion a year but if China Southern succeeds in its strategy of expansion, promotion and discount fares even this prediction will be too low. Mr Tan said the number of Chinese tourists to Australia could grow by 50 per cent next year alone.
China Southern now runs three flights a week out of Guangzhou to Melbourne and daily flights to Sydney, giving it a greater market share than its two Chinese competitors combined.
From November 1 China Southern will introduce twice-daily flights from Guangzhou to Sydney, daily flights to Melbourne and three flights a week to Brisbane. By next March the airline plans to have twice-daily flights to Melbourne, daily flights to Brisbane and flights to a fourth city such as Cairns.