The Sydney Opera House during Chinese New Year celebrations

China has lifted restrictions on group tours to Australia marking a major step forward in the recovery of Australia’s most valuable inbound traveller market.

Australia as well as other key markets such as the United States, Japan, South Korea have had their Approved Destination Status reinstated with immediate effect, China’s culture and tourism ministry announced on Thursday.

Accommodation Australia (AA) welcomed the move saying it is one of the most critical components of the tourism industry’s recovery.

“It is no exaggeration to say this is the most significant announcement for Australia’s accommodation industry of the past 12 months,” said Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson.

“In 2020, Australia’s hotel industry was forced to adapt to the loss of large numbers of visitors from China and they pivoted very well, but today’s announcement will see the return of this key market and in many ways, signals the end of the worst of the pandemic.”

“At Accommodation Australia’s first board meeting in Canberra last week, securing the return of group tourism from China was raised directly with Minister Don Farrell as a key issue for accommodation providers.”

Johnson said the news is also timely given that it coincides with Tourism Australia’s significant marketing activity in the country which he believes puts Australia “on a strong footing to hit the ground running”.

International flights in and out of China have recovered to only 53% of 2019 levels as of July, according to Reuters.

But AA believes the announcement will result in an “immediate and significant increase” in business activity right across Australia.

“In the weeks ahead, we expect to see a wave of new bookings and forward business activity, helping support many thousands of jobs in each state and territory,” Johnson said.

“At a time when aviation routes are continuing to recover and people are feeling safe to travel further abroad, this is the shot in the arm that Australia’s accommodation industry needed.”

Australia’s major airline Qantas also welcomed the news, as it gears up to relaunch flights between Sydney and Shanghai for the first time in more than three and a half years this October.

On October 29, 2023, a daily service will commence between the two cities, delivered by Qantas’ Airbus A330 aircraft.

“The easing of travel restrictions for Chinese group tours visiting Australia is great news for Australian tourism and we welcome the announcement as we gear up to recommence Qantas flights between Sydney and Shanghai in October,” said Qantas International CEO, Cam Wallace.

“Pre-Covid, Australia was a top destination for Chinese visitors and we look forward to helping bring more travellers from China to Australia on our flights again soon.”