It’s open skies between Australia and China, to the delight of the Australian inbound tourism industry.
In a big boost to tourism, a new agreement announced at the weekend will let Australian and Chinese airlines fly an unlimited number of passengers between the two countries.
China is Australia’s fastest growing source of tourists and the new agreement removes the limit on the number of seats airlines could offer between major cities in each country.
In the year ended 30 June 2016, about 1.1 million Chinese visitors came to Australia, up 22% from the previous year and second only to New Zealand, although growing at a much faster rate than tourism from New Zealand.
Australia’s Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) called the open skies deal “one of the biggest single growth opportunities ever presented to Australia’s tourism and transport industry”.
TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said the agreement also represented a significant challenge for industry and governments at all levels, as they mobilise to meet “the expected super-surge in visitor arrivals” from China.
“The Open Skies agreement between Australia and China is arguably the most transformational opportunity for our nation’s visitor economy, but we have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we are to maximise the benefits,” Osmond said.
“The Chinese market is enormous, with an estimated 200 million overseas travellers by 2020, and by 2024 it is expected to overtake the US as the world’s biggest air travel market. But Australia is only capturing less than 1% of these travellers.
“TTF has been a vocal advocate of the need for a dedicated and coordinated tourism and transport economic strategy. We need to clearly identify what actions and investments are needed to ensure the tourism and transport sectors can support the surge in visitors, and reach its full potential as a job and wealth generating juggernaut for Australia.
“The Open Skies agreement removes restrictions on airline capacity between Australia and China and must be a clarion call for all levels of government to consult and collaborate closely with industry. This is an opportunity to double or even triple visitors, not only from China but increasingly from across the Asia-Pacific region.”
Osmond said the current “steady as she goes” approach to the visitor economy simply wouldn’t cut it.
“The tourism and transport industry has just had a bruising battle with the Federal Government over the backpacker tax and the increase in the holiday tax – the Passenger Movement Charge – to AUD 60.
That has been an unnecessary distraction from the main game of preparing our visitor economy for what is likely to be the largest period of growth we have ever seen. We need to be working as one to leverage the great opportunity which the new Open Skies agreement will deliver.”
Edited by Peter Needham