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  • Tamara Sheward

    TropicNow writer

    Email Tamara Sheward

    Confidence in Cairns-China direct flights reaches new heights

    Tourism industry leaders are ‘supremely confident’ that much-anticipated direct flights between Cairns and China will be in place by the end of the year.

    Outgoing Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Alex de Waal told TropicNow that he was certain that three direct services per week between Cairns and a “primary destination in China” would be up and running by December.

    Mr de Waal’s prediction comes on the eve of a trade delegation to China by Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones and representatives of Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) aimed at “sure-ing up” direct flights between Cairns and China.

    The consortium will meet with influential Chinese officials, including senior in-market airline and tourism trade officials, between March 24-31.

    Minister Jones said the government wanted to get more Chinese tourists into Queensland and "make it easy for them to visit different parts of the state".

    Plans for direct flights between Brisbane and China are also on the table.


    “The fact that this trade mission is made up of high-level government officials and representatives sends a clear message to the Chinese that we’re serious about doing business with them,” Mr de Waal said.

    “It shows that we respect them, we want to partner with them, we want their people here as guests.

    “TTNQ has been lobbying for this for the last two years, and it’s fantastic that over the past 12 months, the government has really recognised the significance of courting China and aggressively pursuing trade ties like this.

    “These flights will bring about critical change in the tourism landscape.

    “I’m absolutely, supremely confident that these (direct flights) will be in place this year.”

    Mr de Waal cited Cairns’ “unique position” as a resort destination as a primary dealmaker in securing direct flights.

    “With this type of tourism, people go to one resort and that’s it,” he said.

    “They fly into Cairns, stay here, and then fly back to China from the same airport.

    “This means no empty seats, which is a very unique aviation prospect.”


    CEO of Cairns Airport Norris Carter echoed Mr de Waal’s optimism, saying discussions with potential airlines have progressed.

    “These flights would add to our existing direct flights from Hong Kong operated by Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, and provide easy access direct to Cairns for the world’s largest visitor source market, who list the Great Barrier Reef as their number one must-see global travel experience," Mr Carter said.

    “Almost all our Chinese visitors currently travel on domestic flights either to or from Cairns and 81 per cent take one both ways.

    “This means any flights from China into Queensland are good for Cairns.

    “Our destination is a major attraction and we have a strong and flexible domestic network to support Chinese visitors moving around the state.

    "During the Chinese New Year holiday period this January our domestic carriers added 22,000 seats to support the extra demand.”

    The trade mission comes hot on the heels of reports that TNQ attracted a record-breaking number of international visitors in 2016.

    Visitors from China and Hong Kong topped the list, with 253,000 total arrivals, a 30 per cent jump since 2015.