An influx of Chinese travellers to Australian shores has helped boost earnings for Sydney Airport.
The number of international passengers travelling through the airport rose 2.8 per cent in the first six months of 2015.
Growth in passenger numbers from China was particularly strong, up 16.8 per cent.
Short-term visitors from China have more than tripled in the past decade, with 933,700 arriving in Australia during the 2014/15 financial year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Sydney Airport chief executive Kerrie Mather said nearly half of Chinese visitors travel to Australia via Sydney Airport.
That number is expected to rise as China’s middle class swells in the coming decade.
Ms Mather noted strong demand among passengers from India, Philippines and the United States had also underpinned growth.
“Growth in Chinese travellers through Sydney Airport accounted for 60 per cent of foreign nationality growth,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Australian nationality travellers, the largest market at approximately half of all international travellers, grew by a robust 2.1 per cent.”
Overall, total passenger numbers rose 2.1 per cent to 19 million during the six-month period.
The rise helped lift the airport’s total revenues 4.6 per cent to $594.7 million and boost underlying earnings 6.4 per cent to $488.3 million.
Upgraded baggage handling facilities and an 8.7 per cent rise in revenues from the airport’s car parking and ground transport business also helped drive revenue growth.
The company expects to build on its parking revenue by expanding facilities by 1,600 space, with existing parking resources hitting capacity during peak school holiday periods.
Meanwhile, the airport has sealed a deal with Qantas to take back control of its domestic Terminal 3, four years ahead of the lease expiry, in exchange for $535 million in cash.
The airport will take over the leases of 51 retail and food stores immediately, opening up new revenue streams and will assume control of advertising and valet parking businesses in 2019 when T3 opens up to other airlines.
The airport operator also hinted its interest in operating Sydney’s proposed second airport at Badgerys Creek.
Sydney Airport has first right of refusal to develop and operate the new facility, which is expected to be operating by 2025.
Ms Mather said Sydney Airport was continuing informal talks with the federal government, which is expected to outline its terms for the development and operation of the airport as early as December.
She said in other cities with dual international airports, it was common to see both encourage and support traffic growth.
SYDNEY AIRPORT FLYING HIGH
* Net profit: up 149.7pct to $134.6m
* Revenue: up 4.6pct to $594.7m
* Interim distribution: up one cent to 12.5 cents per security.