Direct China-Darwin flights on the horizon
Direct flights from China to the Northern Territory could begin in a matter of months as part of the government's aim to double the number of visitors from the region within two years.
Shenzhen-based Donghai Airlines has applied for a permit to fly to Darwin through China's Civil Aviation Administration, which NT Tourism Minister Lauren Moss says is the result of years of lobbying on both sides of politics.
Minister Moss said she had productive talks with the airline during a recent trip to China, but stressed there's many more hurdles to overcome before planes land on the Darwin tarmac.
The company has applied to begin three flights per week from September, which may include a passenger or freight service.
"While this is the first step of an extensive process prior to the commencement of any service. I am looking forward to further talks with Donghai Airlines and will continue to promote Darwin and the NT to potential new carriers," Ms Moss said.
The Gunner government hopes to attract 30,000 annual visitors from Greater China to the NT by 2020, with an estimated expenditure of $46 million.
The NT drew 15,000 visitors from the region in 2016, up 18 per cent on the previous year.
Last year, China was Australia's second largest inbound market for visitor arrivals, after New Zealand, and the largest market for total expenditure and visitor nights.
Nineteen Top End tourism operators have completed a China-ready training course under Labor's two-year $5 million package aimed at boosting visitor numbers from China and India.
One participant was Darwin's Palms City Resort and manager Melanie Lewis says she took part because of the growth potential of Chinese visitor numbers.
Ms Lewis said it advised her hotel on providing translated tourism material and other cultural considerations.
The program will be offered to tourism businesses in Central Australia next year.
In May, 40 Mandarin-speaking tour guides from across Australia also completed their Kakadu Knowledge for tour guides certification, allowing them to lead groups into the national park.
Tourism pumps close to $2 billion into the Territory economy every year and provides employment, directly or indirectly, for more than 15,000 people.
The industry took a hit last month after Malaysia Airlines cancelled its direct service between Darwin and Kuala Lumpur.