Tourism operators, travel agents and Chinese airlines are readying for a rush of travellers visiting Australia after China reversed its zero COVID policy and reopening its economy.

Flight Centre’s head of global air Greg Parker told this masthead China’s reopening is the best news the Australia’s tourism industry has received in the last three years and expects increased pressure on Australia’s carriers to increase their services and lower airfares.

The tourism industry is bullish on the return of Chinese tourists ahead of an expected decline to domestic travel. Credit:Rhett Wyman

“If you look at Google traffic for flights out of Australia over the past month, China has rocketed to the top. There’s a huge amount of outbound and inbound demand between the two countries and the Chinese carriers are sure to put downward pressure on airfares as they beef up capacity,” Parker said.

China’s biggest carriers have increased passenger flights to Australia this month, putting pressure on local airlines which are yet to announce the resumption of flights to Australia’s biggest trade partner and the world’s most insatiable travel market. Before the pandemic, an average of 1.4 million Chinese visitors spent more than $12 billion in Australia every year.

China Southern Airlines will begin flying daily services to Sydney and Melbourne by the end of this month, while Xiamen Air and China Eastern are readying to get up to four services per week by February. Air China has also scheduled flights in February following a three-year absence from the region.


Before the pandemic, China’s airlines were responsible for about 30 per cent of international flights out of Australia. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Tuesday it expects international flights to and from China to hit 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year. As it stands, the number of flights hovers at about 6 per cent of the pre-pandemic total with nearly 40 airlines submitting requests for around 700 flights per week through to the beginning of February.

Qantas was the only Australian carrier servicing the China route before the pandemic and is yet to signal a return to the market. Air New Zealand is the only carrier to return to the route, offering four return services to Shangahi per week. New Zealand is not bound to the same COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on international arrivals to some countries including Australia, a policy which has deterred many major airlines from recommencing flying.

“The testing requirement is certainly a deterrent. We’d like to see it retired soon, Parker said.


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