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Air China will be returning to Sydney and Melbourne from the end of January.

In the few weeks since China opted to reopen its borders and allow its citizens to see the world once again, millions of tourist passport applications have been processed as travel-hungry Chinese travellers rediscover their wanderlust.

While China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air scaled back their operations to Australia – but didn’t altogether cease – other carriers suspended services entirely but have now confirmed their return, according to GDS schedules.

Sichuan Airlines will be back in Australias skies from 31 January, initially with a once-weekly return service between Chengdu and Melbourne, increasing to three from the middle of February.

Star Alliance carrier Air China won’t be far behind, confirming plans to return to Sydney and Melbourne, flying three times per week from February 2023.

The return of these two airlines to Australia is on top of China Southern and China Eastern scaling up capacity with more frequent services to both Sydney and Melbourne.

As one of Australia’s primary source markets for inbound tourism, Australia is ready to welcome back Chinese visitors with open arms.

Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director, Peter Shelley, shared his thoughts exclusively with Traveltalk.

ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley.

The resumption of flights from China is a hugely important step in the rebuilding of Australia’s export tourism industry. The additional flights from China will also grow the number of seats available and potentially positively impact the cost of flights given the price competitive nature of flights from China. 

Given the pent-up demand, the industry anticipates a strong recovery to take place over the next 12 months, potentially led by the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) sector, as we’ve seen this happen with the recovery of other international markets. Demand to travel to Australia from high spending tourists is expected to also increase rapidly over this period. 

While it’s been almost a year since our borders reopened, the reality for export tourism businesses across the country has been a slow growth in international visitor numbers and a difficult path to recovery.

We are seeing a month-on-month improvement in international holiday visitor numbers but even the latest figures for October are what we used to see in the mid 1990’s – so we are a long way off our peak.

The China market – our biggest visitor market pre-Covid – is a vital part of our industry recovery and the resumption of flights and visitors will help to supercharge our recovery. 

Importantly, this move will be very positive news for the inbound tour operators who specialise in servicing Chinese visitors, as they are the businesses who have continued to be in hibernation despite the border reopening back in February 2022. 

There will be many tourism businesses across Australia who will be very pleased to hear this news and will be gearing up for a more positive 2023.