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New travel data shows importance of Asia routes to Qantas

Qantas has chosen to partner with Emirates in what some see as a shift away from Asia. AAP/Barbara Walton

Qantas’ decision to strengthen its ties with Dubai-based airline Emirates and scale back its relationship with British Airways has been placed under a new shadow, following the release of new travel data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Over the last ten years, people from China and India more than tripled their visits to Australia breaking all previous records, according to the ABS.

Asian countries now make up seven of Australia’s top ten source countries for short-term visits, with Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea & Hong Kong featuring prominently.

“Despite a high Australian dollar, Australia’s short term visitor numbers were up by nearly five per cent since 2011 with 6.1 million short trips made to Australia - 270,000 more than we saw in 2011,” said ABS assistant director of demography, Neil Scott.

And Asia also plays a central role in the top 10 countries Australians choose to visit, with Indonesia ranked second behind New Zealand, Thailand ranked fourth and China ranked sixth.

“The large number of tourists who travel between Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok pose some challenging questions for Qantas’ decision to strengthen its ties with Dubai based Emirates and scale down the level of cooperation with British Airways, which has jointly serviced the traditional kangaroo route to Europe via SE Asia,” said David Beirman, senior lecturer in tourism at UTS.

Qantas yesterday played down a news report suggesting British Airways might cut Qantas out of its current code share arrangements.

“Qantas customers will still be able to travel with Qantas from Australia to Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong, and then on to London with British Airways, under the oneworld banner,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

Qantas also said British Airways would continue to put its code on Qantas flights between Asia and Australia.

But an earlier announcement from the airline revealed a scaling back of some Asian services, with Perth to Hong Kong and Adelaide to Singapore services cancelled and Sydney to Honk Kong services reduced.

Last year was the first year that international tourism arrivals to Australia topped 6 million, however Dr Beirman said there had been an overall reversal in the direction of visitors.

“In 2007 there were slightly more international visitors visiting Australia than Australian travelling overseas. By 2012 for every three international visitors coming to Australia, four Australians were travelling overseas,” Dr Beirman said.

And that’s not the worse news, with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Tourism Barometer showing Australia attracts around 0.06% of global tourism movements.

“It shows we have a lot of room for improvement,” Dr Beirman said.

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