Australia and the U.S. Sign Open Skies Agreement

The United States and Australia have signed an aviation agreement allowing all Australian and U.S. airlines to freely select routes, destinations and frequency of services between the two countries and to other nations.

Qantas Airways Ltd. and United Airlines are currently the only airlines flying nonstop between Australia and the continental U.S. Hawaiian Airlines flies between Honolulu and Sydney. Look for Virgin Blue, Australia's second-largest airline by revenue, to begin flying to the west coast of the U.S.

Tourism Australia welcomed today's announcement, which will help Australia grow tourism from the important U.S. travel market. The U.S. travel market provides around $2 billion in export income to Australia annually. "The new regulations allow airlines to more readily increase airline services on the trans-Pacific route," says Richard Beere, Tourism Australia's executive general manager international.

Last year, Australia welcomed 460,000 visitors from the U.S. making it the fourth largest source of international visitors to Australia after New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Partly in anticipation of today's liberalization of airline regulations with the U.S., and additional airline services, the Tourism Forecasting Committee has predicted an extra $400 million in annual tourism export earnings from the U.S. between 2007 and 2009. (MR)

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