Historic air services agreement penned

TRAVEL between Australia and mainland China is set to become both easier and more attractive this year, following the signing of a cooperation agreement between Tourism Australia, the China National Tourist Office (CNTO) and six Chinese airlines.

Top level executives from Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Air put pen to paper in late December in Sydney, instigating joint promotional activities and special airfares in a bid to increase capacity between China and Australia.

The ‘China-Australia Year of Tourism 2017’ initiative capitalises on an agreement announced during the month by Federal Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo, which sees a fresh bulk of air capacity between China and Australia expanded to permit uncapped passenger volumes on an unlimited number of flights to major cities in either country.

“Travel between Australia and China is booming,” said China Eastern Airlines’ general manager Kathy Zhang. “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”.

Together, the six airlines operate 1,739 aircraft and have all been given the maximum 7 Star Safety Rating by aviation analysts, AirlineRatings.com.

Commenting on the historic agreement, CNTO director Luo Weijian called it “one of the most significant tourism exchange initiatives ever undertaken between China and another country”.

“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 series of events to celebrate the China-Australia Year of Tourism has been organised, the first being a gala event held at Sydney’s Opera House on 05 February.

The event will be attended by 2,000 tourism stakeholders from both China and Australia with the Chinese Airlines expected to make further announcements about new routes and additional China-Australia capacity.