A dramatic shake-up of Qantas and Virgin Australia's international routes, at a time when a record number of foreign airlines are opening up new routes into Australia, will spur the growth and further cut airfares, which have fallen 30 per cent over the last decade.
Government ministers, airline chiefs and tourism officials told the AFR Weekend the country must prepare for a tourism bonanza, which has the potential to replace mining as the country's key economic pillar.
However, there are concerns within the $120 billion industry that Australia lacks the infrastructure to cater for millions of new visitors and believe more resources need to be injected into one of the country's few growth industries.
"I used to say Australia was geographically challenged, now I think it is geographically privileged because it is only one sector away from the biggest population in the world which is transforming so much," Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said in an interview on board his airline's first Melbourne to Hong Kong flight this week.
The operation of international and domestic air transportation services, the sale of worldwide and domestic holiday tours and associated support activities including catering, information technology, ground handling and engineering and maintenance.
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