Japanese Visitors to Flock Back to Cairns

Japanese tourists are expected to flock back to Cairns following a major airline announcement today.

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Barker, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka and Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe joined forces in Cairns to announce and celebrate year-round, daily direct flights between Tokyo Haneda and Cairns.

Mr Barker said the launch was highly significant for Tropical North Queensland.

“When another full-service carrier stopped its direct services to Japan in 2009, Japanese visitation into Cairns decreased dramatically,” he said.

“Data shows us that large numbers of Japanese tourists visit Tropical North Queensland when a full-service carrier, like Virgin Australia, offers direct flights to Tokyo Haneda.

“Virgin Australia is also in partnership with All Nippon Airways (ANA), a trusted global carrier favoured by Japanese travellers. This powerful partnership will further encourage Japanese visitors to Cairns.

“Today’s announcement is a huge development for our region’s tourism industry and economy as we continue our post-COVID recovery.

“It is also further evidence that long range, narrow body aircraft such as the Boeing 737-8 are game changers for our region, bringing destinations such as Japan closer with more cost effective and fuel-efficient operations.”

The daily Virgin Australia service will begin on June 28, 2023. Member for Cairns and Assistant Tourism Minister Michael Healy said it would bring more than 30,000 visitors directly to Cairns, in the first year alone.

“The Boeing 737-8 aircraft is capable of carrying more than 150 passengers daily into Cairns, where they will enjoy our world-class visitor and amazing cultural experiences,” he said.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive officer Mark Olsen said the route was key to growing international travel, particularly because it delivered connectivity through the trusted ANA brand.

“Prior to the pandemic, the valuable Japanese market delivered 112,000 Japanese into the region a year,” he said.

“In addition to leisure travel, this service will open up the potential for the business events market, as well as trade and investment, thanks to a brand the Japanese know at an airport they know.

“Our tourism industry is very excited about this connection, as are our Japanese trade partners who sell Cairns as the closest gateway to Australia with just one-hour time difference and summer all year round.”

Ms Hrdlicka said the airline was thrilled to offer guests the direct flights.

“Adding over 2,000 seats between these iconic destinations every week means more value and choice for Australians wanting to travel to Japan,” she said.

“Importantly, it also means welcoming more Japanese tourists into the Sunshine State to enjoy our unrivalled natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands.”

The service is supported by the Queensland Government’s Attracting Aviation Investment Fund.

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the reopening of the Japanese market and Japan’s lifting of travel restrictions was crucial in getting the Virgin Australia service underway.

“Re-establishing direct services to Cairns from Japan has been high on our agenda and will provide a welcome boost to the economy of Far North Queensland,” he said.

“We estimate this service each year will generate $70 million in overnight visitor expenditure in Queensland and provide 680 direct and indirect jobs.”