Travel between China and Australia received an historic boost yesterday. In an unprecedented partnership between Chinese airlines and Australia’s tourism industry, six Chinese airlines met in Sydney to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to join forces on tourism marketing and promotional activities.
The agreement will see the airlines – Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Air – take a coordinated approach towards increasing capacity between China and Australia. An announcement on new routes and additional China-Australia capacity is expected in February.
Also coming is a grand trip around China for 100 Australian tourism stakeholders and media representatives.
Tourism Australia was there at the signing yesterday, as was its Chinese counterpart, the China National Tourist Office. Bother are champions of increased air links between the two countries, serving to open up tourism in both directions.
The signing should usher in a new era of bilateral tourism exchange between Australia and China in 2017. Next year is set be another record year for Chinese tourists coming to Australia in both visitor numbers and total spend within the travel and retail sector.
The China-Australia Year of Tourism 2017, a joint initiative between Australia and China, coordinated by the China National Tourist Office, was officially launched in Sydney by Luo Weijian, Director of the China National Tourist Office, and John O’Sullivan, General Manager of Tourism Australia.
The increase in both carriers and direct routes into China is also boosting Australian visits to China. More than 720,000 Australians have travelled to China in the past year, that number representing total growth of more than 40% over the past five years. Australia has consistently ranked among the top 15 source nations for overseas visitors to China.
“This is one of the most significant tourism exchange initiatives ever undertaken between China and another country,” Luo said.
“Designating 2017 as the China-Australia Year of Tourism recognises just how important tourism is, not just in terms of export income, but in cultural exchange between Australia and China.”
A large number of cultural activities will be staged in Australia and across major tourist destinations in China over the coming year. In addition, there will be a host of promotions and airfare deals for Australian travellers to China.
The promotion will run throughout 2017 but Luo says the positive spin-off will continue for years to come.
“One of the most exciting aspects of this year of tourism is the coming together of six major Chinese airlines, all working together towards building one market.”
Though China’s major airlines are all government-owned, they operate as separate business entities and compete across a number of routes and markets.
“What we’ve recognised,” Luo said, “is that the Australian market lends itself more towards cooperation. Rather than six Chinese carriers competing to get a bigger slice of the pie, if we grow that pie everybody will get a bigger slice.
“One of our key objectives is to add greater capacity and more routes between Australia and China. This will attract more Australian visitors to China and it will facilitate continued growth in a market that is currently generating more than AUD 9 billion in export revenue for Australia.”
Together the six Chinese airlines represented in Sydney yesterday operate 1739 aircraft. All have received the maximum 7-Star Safety Rating by top airline industry analysts, AirlineRatings.com.
According to Kathy Zhang, General Manager of China Eastern Airlines, “Travel between Australia and China is booming. We have seen rapid growth in both Chinese visitors coming to Australia and Australians visiting China, and it is one of the key drivers for China Eastern Airlines’ international business.”
Speaking at the launch, Tourism Australia boss, John O’Sullivan, praised the role China’s airlines had played in facilitating Chinese arrivals, which he said had consistently grown at annual rates over 20% in recent years.
Direct flights operate between Australia and 13 mainland Chinese cities, encompassing major hubs such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In recent times other routes have been added, opening up tourist destinations such as Xi’an, famed for its Terracotta Warriors, and Sichuan province, home to China’s great panda sanctuaries and world famous for its spicy food.
The first major event of the China-Australia Year of Tourism will be a launch at Sydney’s Opera House on 5 February 2017. This gala event will be attended by 2000 tourism stakeholders from both China and Australia. Chinese Airlines expect to make an announcement about new routes and additional China-Australia capacity at this time.
A similar gala event, organised and hosted by Tourism Australia, will be held in Beijing in the second half of 2017.
Over the coming year, the China National Tourist Office (CNTO) will host 100 Australian tourism stakeholders and media representatives on an extensive trip taking them right around China.
CNTO will also take part in the Australia China youth exchange inviting Australian university students and young entrepreneurs on special study tours of China.
Edited by Peter Needham