China air link lifts Queensland trade hopes
Queensland is anticipating a boost in China trade and tourism following the inauguration of scheduled flights between Brisbane and Guangzhou.
With the new twice-weekly service, China Southern has become the first mainland carrier to launch flights to Australia.
State Economic Development and Trade Minister Doug Slack hailed the direct service as an 'exciting opportunity for Queenslanders to visit and do business with one of the world's most economically dynamic nations'.
He said: 'Direct flights between Brisbane and Guangzhou will provide a boost to business and friendship links.
'They are also welcomed by Queensland fresh food producers exporting to southern China.' China is Queensland's third largest export market with annual sales approaching A$1 billion (about $5.11 billion).
China Southern is one of the mainland's three largest carriers - and ranks top in terms of passengers carried, fleet size and routes serviced.
The air link was a product of a mission Mr Slack led to Guangzhou last year which included talks with China Southern executives.
It could also represent a boom for the Queensland tourist industry.
Mr Slack said: 'Australia has been accepted by China as an official tourist destination so we can expect a significant boost in holidaymakers from the mainland.
'The Australian Tourist Commission estimates that around 54,000 Chinese visited the country in 1996 but the number is expected to rise to 330,000 by the turn of the century - an increase of more than 600 per cent.' Queensland's attractions were recently promoted on Chinese television with a travelogue by Guangdong TV. Also screened was a documentary series titled Queensland Week.
'We believe promoting Queensland in China is an important strategy at a time when tourist numbers from some other Asian countries are falling off,' he said.
'The challenge is to ensure that tourism infrastructure and immigration procedures are in place so the potential can be realised.' Queensland's education system has also come under close scrutiny from China. School principals from the mainland looking to import 'education know-how' - accompanied by a camera crew from China's Education Film Unit - recently inspected education facilities in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.