Tourism Australia inked a groundbreaking deal that will see almost 10 million U.S. dollars pumped into marketing projects with China's largest and fastest growing international airline, China Southern Airlines.
The agreement, signed by Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy and China Southern Airlines President Tan Wangeng this week in Guangzhou, coincides with a formal announcement that Cairns is to become the airline's fifth Australian destination, with a new three flights a week service from Guangzhou due to start in December.
According to Xinhua, the wide-reaching marketing deal includes partnership agreements across Australia as part of a concerted move within the tourism industry to speak with "one voice" when marketing itself internationally.
McEvoy said China Southern's deepening ties with Tourism Australia and its state tourism partners would further raise awareness amongst China's growing middle classes of Australia and of the Chinese airline's rapidly expanding services between the two countries. "These agreements are strategically very significant with China Southern and its Guangzhou base fast establishing itself as an important international hub, the closest major mainland city in China to Australia," he added.
"China Southern is now the leading carrier on the China- Australia route, carrying 22 percent of all Chinese tourists into Australia during 2011." In just over two years, the airline has nearly quadrupled capacity to Australia, opening up direct access between China and Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, and soon to be Cairns.
One of the three key Chinese carriers, China Southern domestic network in China is rapidly turning Guangzhou into a major regional hub which will eventually help connect up to 80 cities to Australia.
The network strategy supports Tourism Australia's own approach under the Tourism 2020 strategy of targeting the country's rapidly emerging middle classes - focusing primarily on China's primary cities, with steady expansion into more secondary cities in the long run.
Mr. McEvoy said the recent introduction by China Southern of its new "Canton Route" also now offers air travellers from the Northern Hemisphere more convenient connections to Australia from London and other European key cities.
China is currently Australia's third largest inbound market in terms of arrivals with 542,000 visitors arriving in Australia during 2011, an increase of 19.4 percent on 2010, and worth 3.8 billion U.S. dollars for total visitor expenditure and nights. For the 2012 financial year ending on June 30, the Chinese inbound market had grown to a record 583,200 visitors.