Tourists are returning to Queensland after COVID-19 as the region looks forward to Brisbane hosting the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games ©Tourism and Events Queensland

An initiative by the Queensland Government launched last year to help attract more visitors to the state before it hosts the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games has secured more than 1.1 million inbound international seats and up to AUD$960 million (£543 million/$652 million/€616 million) in overnight visitor spending, it has been claimed.

The Attracting Aviation Investment Fund (AAIF) was launched with an AUD$200 million (£113 million/$136 million/€128 million) war chest and has seen 15 new or restarted international services, supporting 8,945 jobs in Queensland, research has revealed.

From April 23, Korean Air will restart direct flights to Brisbane five times a week, delivering up to AUD$120.5 million (£68.1 million/$81.7 million/€77.2 million) annually in overnight visitor spending and up to 1,230 good Queensland jobs.

Queensland's Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, at one-year anniversary celebrations for the scheme, said Korean Air will land an extra 89,000 inbound seats a year in Brisbane.

Other recently secured partnerships with Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns international airports include EVA Air restarting four flights per week in the first year from Taipei to Brisbane, expanding to five in the second year, and six weekly services by the third year, and Philippines Air growing to five flights per week over two years from Manilla to Brisbane.

The return of Korean Air flying to Brisbane Airport in April is seen as a major boost for Queensland ©Brisbane Airport
The return of Korean Air flying to Brisbane Airport in April is seen as a major boost for Queensland ©Brisbane Airport

Over the recent festive season, Queensland recorded a domestic holiday bonanza of more than AUD$4 billion (£2.2 billion/$2.7 billion/€2.5 billion) with 2.5 million visitors staying 20 million visitor nights, it is claimed.

At the same time, Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) has launched a new AUD$5 million "Queensland is Calling" campaign in New South Wales, Victoria and New Zealand.

TEQ and its overseas travel and airline partners are running Queensland campaigns around the world, including recently re-opened markets in Hong Kong and China, and next week launches a significant new partnership with global heavyweight Expedia.

"Aviation is absolutely critical to Queensland's international tourism recovery and it’s highly competitive," Hinchliffe said.

"That’s why we’ve partnered with Queensland's four international airports on a $200 million post-COVID aviation war chest.

"We’re getting results, but securing international flights is one part of a much bigger picture including Tourism and Events Queensland's ongoing promotion of Queensland destinations overseas.

"Off the back of Queensland's AUD$4 billion domestic tourism bonanza over Christmas, we're seeing encouraging green shoots of recovery in overseas visitor numbers.

"We know there's more work to do on rebuilding airline capacity and Queensland's $6 billion international tourism industry."

The "Queensland is Calling" campaign is encouraging visitors from New Zealand and other parts of Australia ©Tourism and Events Queensland

Brisbane Airport (BNE) corporation executive general manager of Aviation Ryan Both hailed the success of the Queensland Government’s initiative.

"During December and January, international travel at BNE was back to 61 per cent of pre-COVID levels, so we still have a way to go to rebuild our network," he said.

"But compared with one year ago when we were at just 2 per cent capacity, we have come a long way.

"There remains a shortage of aircraft and flight crew so every time a jet becomes available, we are competing with cities across the globe for that new service.

"This fund helps give Queensland the edge at a time when every flight means more local jobs and more Queensland exports." 

Sunshine Coast Airport chief executive Andrew Brodie believes it is an important initiative to encourage more international visitors into the region before Brisbane 2032.

"It is critical for the future growth of the Sunshine Coast and wider region to have direct international connections into Sunshine Coast Airport," he said.

"International connections will have far reaching benefits for the region and we look forward to working with Government to identify opportunities that will bring international visitors directly into the Sunshine Coast and support the airport's role as the third gateway airport for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games."