MAYOR'S MESSAGE: Council's productive visit to China

ON our recent trip to visit our Sister City Leshan, I was buoyed by the interest in Australia as a business and tourist destination.

The region is undergoing tremendous change. The Chinese government has decided that Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Provence that contains our Sister City Leshan, will be developed into the third Chinese economic zone. The other two economic zones are Beijing and Shanghai.

Part of that development is a big investment in the invisible industry - tourism - both as a destination to attract tourists from abroad and developing routes to destina<HH>tions for its growing middle class. Already there are direct flights from Chengdu to Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland.

We're  joining efforts to secure direct flights to Brisbane that would aug<HH>ment direct flights by Air China between Brisbane and Beijing that will start in December.

With the Air China direct flights now to Sydney and Brisbane, the Fraser Coast is a destination that is already within easy reach of Chinese visitors.

That ease of access was one of the topics we promoted at the Leshan travel expo where this year Australia was the favoured nation and our display featured in the main pavilion.

During the visit we also attended the opening of the inaugural Australian Food Week in Leshan where we showcased Hervey Bay scallops and our clean, green environment.

A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Leshan University, which has 16,000 students and is being expanded to cater for 25,000 students.

The Chinese place a high value on education and they are looking for destinations to send students of all ages to experience different cultures or study.

On the visit we were able to strengthen links between the Leshan University and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

I hope soon to see Chinese students joining the other international students completing degrees on the USC Fraser Coast Campus.

Uni students could help pave the way for more interaction.

One of the reasons there are direct flights from Chengdu to Auckland is the large Chinese student population in the city.

Together with our regional partners and stakeholders, we are looking forward to further developing the Sister City relationship for growth economically and culturally as we continue to Build Better Communities.