An estimated 30,000 Chinese visitors will arrive in Cairns using the new Hainan Airlines flights from Shenzhen over the next two years.
The inaugural flight of the twice-a-week service landed at Cairns Airport early this morning in what the State Government says will be a $64 million economic boost to the region.
The new China flights will be welcome news to the industry after recent statistics showed international visitation to TNQ was patchy over the past 12 months.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones, who was in Cairns to officially welcome the first flight, said the Cairns-Shenzhen direct service was the "quickest route for Chinese travellers to Australia".
“Chinese tourists are Queensland’s most valuable and fastest growing international market and we expect up to 30,000 Chinese visitors to arrive in Cairns using this direct flight over the next two years," she said.
“This new route means we are continuing towards our goal of making Queensland the Australian destination of choice for Chinese visitors.
“With a travel time of just under eight hours this new flight path will provide the quickest route for Chinese travellers to Australia and provides tourists direct access to two World Heritage-listed natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest."
Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter said Hainan Airline's direct service could help free up domestic routes for other passengers, with 80% of Chinese visitors currently arriving in TNQ using a domestic flight.
“This new service will enable Chinese visitors to spend less time travelling and more time enjoying everything Tropical North Queensland has to offer,” Mr Carter said.
“The city of Shenzhen has around 11 million residents and is situated near Hong Kong in the heavily populated Pearl River Delta region.
“These flights offer access to Cairns and Great Barrier Reef to a huge number of potential Chinese visitors. The Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport serves as Hainan Airlines’ Asia Pacific hub for passengers and cargo.”
“Hainan Airlines’ codeshare partnership with Virgin Australia offers Chinese visitors a convenient option to also include other parts of Queensland and Australia in their travel itinerary.”