China-based Sichuan Airlines is expected to launch a service soon connecting Chengdu in China to Melbourne, Australia.
It is expected that an official communication in this regard from the Chinese airline would come soon. The plan to connect Chengdu with the Australian city assumes significance because of the fact that Chengdu is one of three new cities in China that Tourism Australia is planning to target next year. The funding for the initiative is to be derived from the Australian government’s new Asia Marketing Fund. The move is also part of the government’s broader China geographic strategy of deepening its marketing footprint into ‘smaller’ cities in China.
Chengdu is high on the list of priorities of the Australian government, and in April this year Tourism Australia led a high level delegation of Australia’s leading airports to attend Routes Asia 2012, an aviation route development forum. The importance afforded to Chinese cities is part of a plan by Australian tourism authorities to double overnight visitor expenditure to up to AUD140bn annually by 2020.
Andrew McEvoy, managing director, Tourism Australia, said, ‘Chengdu represents one of China’s fastest emerging secondary cities and largest aviation hubs in central western China, and has the potential to open up significant new markets for us. Our research has clearly demonstrated the appetite for travel amongst the new middle classes in these cities but, to fully realise these opportunities it’s critical that we get more capacity and, in particular, more direct flights.’
McEvoy added, ‘Securing more aviation capacity into Australia from China was a key feature of our discussions and networking in Chengdu. It was also a great opportunity to demonstrate to Asian carriers our industry’s renewed commitment towards speaking and acting with a single voice when it comes to marketing our country overseas. Melbourne Airport are to be congratulated for their foresight in developing such strong links with Chengdu, through the ‘sister airport’ relationship they established at Routes Asia. Their success in securing Sichuan Airlines represents a significant win for this ‘Team Australian’ approach and, together with Tourism Victoria, we plan to market this new route hard.’