IT STARTED as a seasonal venture into Australia in January, but now it appears Hong Kong Airlines has taken a shine to the Gold Coast.
Hong Kong Airlines has announced plans to schedule year-round flights to the Gold Coast from early April, building on the 11-week Chinese New Year charter program introduced this year.
Cairns will also benefit from the new service from July with a stopover planned for the tropical north of the state on the return leg.
The airline plans to introduce two scheduled flights a week into the Gold Coast from April, lifting that to three flights a week in July.
This will potentially bring an extra 13,000 Chinese tourists to Queensland a year, adding to the 213,100 Chinese visitors who travelled to the Coast over the past year.
The extra visitors will generate up to $32 million a year for Queensland economy, says State Minister for Tourism and Major Events Kate Jones.
"These flights will bring visitors from many major ports across mainland China to Hong Kong and on to Queensland, as well as thousands of Hong Kong residents heading to the Gold Coast and Cairns," she says.
Gold Coast Tourism CEO Martin Winter says the latest announcement 'builds on the close and ongoing partnership between Gold Coast Tourism, Gold Coast Airport and Hong Kong Airlines'.
"Importantly, these scheduled services represent a significant increase in access to the Gold Coast from China's tier one and two cities via Hong Kong Airlines' extensive regional network, providing yet another opportunity to build on the Gold Coast's share of Australia's highest yielding international market, China," he says.
"The significant upscaling of these services from an 11-week charter program to a year-round scheduled service is testament to the airline's belief in the continued growth of China and the growing appeal of our destination for Chinese travellers.
"Following an impressive 15 per cent increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the city, China now equates to 24 per cent of all international visitors to the Gold Coast, making it our largest inbound market."
Li Dianchun, Hong Kong Airlines' chief commercial officer, says the response to the initial charter campaign since January has been 'overwhelming'.
"We firmly believe the year-round service will further enhance the cultural, tourism and business exchange between China, Asia and Australia via our strong international hub Hong Kong, bringing into full play our connectivity in this part of the world," he says.
The Chinese represent the largest visitor expenditure of any tourist market in Australia, spending more than $1.2 billion in Queensland in the year to September.
Hong Kong Airlines adds to a raft of new services from Asia this past year, including a new AirAsiaX link with Kuala Lumpur and New Zealand.
Gold Coast Airport, which is undergoing a $200 million upgrade, announced that annual passenger movements surged past six million for the first time in 2015.
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