Chief Minister Andrew Barr is keen to capitalise on the ACT’s growing reputation as a tourism destination, reaching out to Chinese airlines and committing to re-establish a direct link to New Zealand.
In his recent State of the Territory speech, Mr Barr said the start of daily flights to Singapore and Doha meant that from next month the ACT would have 14 international flights a week but the missing links were a connection to China, and a direct service to New Zealand, and onwards to the US West Coast.
He named China Southern Airlines and Hong Kong Air as carriers the Government had been talking to.
Mr Barr has also been lobbying for a direct Canberra link to Hobart, so both cities can benefit from their booming tourism sectors.
“From next month, we will have 14 international flights a week. 18 months ago, there were none,” he said. “That’s tens of thousands of new people coming into our city each year. And it means Canberra companies can be in Asia within hours, and Europe and the USA within a day.
“Daily international flights, connecting Canberra to Doha, Singapore and beyond, bring significant opportunities for our businesses, our institutions and our city as a whole.”
Mr Barr said opening up Canberra to low-cost airlines was imperative to making Canberra a more affordable place to visit.
“TigerAir’s Brisbane and Melbourne flights are doing well, and we’re looking to entice more low-cost airlines to our city,” he said.
Mr Barr said more people were coming to Canberra from across Australia and around the world than ever before.
Tourism employed 16,800 people in Canberra and one in seven new jobs in the ACT was in the tourism sector, with tourism job numbers increasing by 1,100 in the last financial year.
Mr Barr said recent figures from Tourism Research Australia showed that tourism employment growth had even outpaced overall employment growth in the ACT.
“Tourism now contributed $2.3 billion to the ACT’s economy and we’re well on our way to reaching our goal of a $2.5 billion tourism sector by 2020,” he said.
“The Government has worked closely with industry to harness the opportunities from more domestic and international connections, to help diversify our economy. We are committed to continuing this growth over the coming years, harnessing the opportunities global exposure brings.”
Mr Barr also told his business and political audience that Canberra must embrace change and the opportunities it could bring, and that Governments must have the political will to implement long-term policies.
“This city will stagnate under timid managerialism. Young people will leave for better opportunities in bigger cities. New investment will dry up. This is not the path we choose. We are not here to mind the shop,” he said.