China's flag carrier Air China welcomed a major flight between Sydney and Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, on Saturday.[Photo/Xinhua]
An Airbus 330-200 plane flying Sydney's first direct route from China's fourth-largest international airport touched down at Sydney Airport, marking the start of a service running three times a week that is expected to bring 23,000 Chinese visitors and 89 million Autralian dollars of their expenditure to the New South Wales (NSW) economy.
"Chengdu, the land of abundance and capital of Sichuan province, is a city proud of its natural endowment, historical heritage, cultural diversity and hardworking people. The city and its surrounding area are leading other cities in China's west in economic development and have been working to build and strengthen their ties with Australia," Consul General of the Consulate-General of China in Sydney Gu Xiaojie said at an event in Sydney Airport welcoming the new route.
"Air China's direct flights will help to strengthen Chengdu
and Sichuan's cooperation with the most dynamic and prosperous city in New South Wales, hence creating new opportunities for the Chinese and Australian people to deepen mutual understanding, friendship and economic cooperation.
The consul general said the Chinese and Australian economies are "highly complementary", with recent years witnessing "rapid growth in bilateral trade and investment, tourism, education, science and technology".
New South Wales is the destination of more than half of Chinese investment and students and 40 percent of tourists to Australia, "and we value our friendly relationship with the state very much", he said.
Chengdu is Air China's second-largest hub offering connections to more than 40 destinations within China and international cities such as Frankfurt, Paris and Rome. The new flight, which offers 237 seats on the aircraft, will help Sydney Airport host seven airlines flying to 13 Chinese cities by the end of the month, said Sydney Airport Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kerrie Mather.
"In the year ending June 2016, New South Wales welcomed almost 640,000 people from China and they spent some 2.1 billion Australian dollars in our local economy, which is very welcomed. The partnership with Air China will help continue to grow that, for our local economy, and likewise, we will look forward to sending more people to Chengdu
and China," NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Major Events and Tourism Jonathan O'Dea said.
The managing director of Air China's Southwest Branch Liu Yong said the Chengdu-Sydney flight will establish a new "bridge in the sky" to help boost economic, trade and cultural exchanges.
"The weather forecast said there'd be rain, but it turned out to be nice and sunny, a very smooth first flight. It's a good sign for our new link and I'm confident of it," Liu said.
"Chinese nationals continue to be our largest foreign contributor in inbound passengers and this new service will drive further demand," Mather said.
As part of continued efforts to meet that demand, Sydney Airport has rolled out a number of initiatives to welcome Chinese passengers. These include Mandarin-speaking "ambassadors" to help visitors, as well as retail, food and beverage offerings tailored to Chinese travelers, and a presence on Chinese social media platforms to ensure that passengers are kept up to date, she said.
"It's going to be great for Sydneysiders as well. Chengdu
is one of the fastest developing cities in the world and an ideal destination for people who want to explore western China," she said.
"It's famous for the giant pandas and for Sichuan cuisine, which is personally my favorite. I'm sure Sydneysiders will love Chengdu
as much as I do."