SILK ROAD2.JPGAustralia is seen as a faraway vacation destination to those living in the west. But not if you live in China. Australia's tourist sector is already reaping the rewards of its relative proximity and in the past 12 months, over 180,000 Chinese tourists have travelled to Australia, a rise of 20 per cent over the same time last year.

In this Daily Telegraph story, Australia's federal tourism minister Fran Bailey says the Chinese market is developing rapidly and says the growing number of direct long-haul air routes to China are the “new Silk Road”, spreading wealth around the globe in similar fashion to the original Silk Road (pictured).

For comparison, the number of Korean tourists visiting Australia is around 133,000, so clearly there is a lot of growth potential. Indeed, an official report predicts there could be 1m Chinese tourists visiting Australia in 2016.

Talking of air routes, it is interesting to see the tactics employed by airlines and cities in the west to win highly-prized direct routes to China. United Airlines has managed to get Los Angeles governor Arnold Shwarzenegger to back its bid for a daily non-stop flight from LAX to Shanghai.

United's proposed routes will mean “significant economic benefits” to both China and the US, Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to US transportation secretary Mary Peters. “China is our country's fourth largest trading partner, and California is a leading US gateway for trade with China, making the state an ideal choice for increased ties to China,” the Terminator said.

The US Department of Transportation is expected to decide in the fall where the route will be awarded. Los Angeles, the fastest growing aviation market to Shanghai, claims it is front-runner as it has more traffic to Shanghai than any other US metro area.

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