ON OFFER: The Whitsundays will offer Chinese visitors packages to experience the iconic natural attractions like Heart Reef.
ON OFFER: The Whitsundays will offer Chinese visitors packages to experience the iconic natural attractions like Heart Reef. WWF-Aus / Christian Miller

New direct flight to deliver 85,000 tourists to Whitsundays

A NEW direct flight from China to Brisbane is expected to bring about 85,000 Chinese tourists to the Whitsundays over the next four years.

The first Air China flight carrying the airline's executives touched down in Brisbane on Monday.

Tourism Whitsundays is part of a consortium with Brisbane Airport, the Queensland Government, Tourism and Events Queensland, Tourism Australia, Gold Coast Tourism and Brisbane Marketing, which has collectively worked to secure the Air China flights.

Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Craig Turner expects about half of the Chinese tourists to visit the Whitsundays, arguing it's the only group in the partnership offering a reef experience.

The flight from Beijing to Brisbane, operating four times a week, will bring a total of 170,000 visitors over four years.

If the strategy works it could mean a massive expansion to the number of tourists from Asia visiting the Whitsundays.

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"We've never really identified it before," Mr Turner said. "Places like Cairns and Gold Coast have up to 40% of their international tourists from Asia."

Right now Asian tourists make up about 6% of the market. Mr Turner said with a million tourists expected to come out of China in the next few years, there was a lot of potential beyond this initial partnership.

"The Whitsundays will offer these visitors the iconic natural attractions of Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach, as part of packages that will complement these new flights, and will ensure they have a premium Great Barrier Reef holiday when travelling to Queensland," he said. The new strategy comes as the latest international tourist figures were released, showing that the total number of international visitors was up by 8.2 per cent - to 247,000 - year-on-year for the 12 months ending September 2017.

The Whitsundays' number one market is the UK and this was up 11.5 per cent, to 55,000 visitors. There was big growth in the second largest market, Germany, up 14.9 per cent, with 37,000 visitors, and visitor numbers from China increased 14 per cent, to 22,000 visitors.

Numbers were down from the USA (14 per cent) and New Zealand (4.6 per cent).

"We note that the USA had a decline in this reporting period and while IVS data does fluctuate, we are watching and we are aware, as this is an important market for us. We will continue to work hard in this market."

On Wednesday, a delegation of key Air China executives and top Chinese travel company executives will fly from Brisbane to the Whitsundays for a two-day exploration.


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