Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines will be offering an extended programme of charter flights between Beijing’s Capital International Airport and Birmingham International Airport in the UK this year, building on the success of China Southern Airlines’ flights last year. These operated between July 22, 2014 and August 6, 2014 and are thought to have generated £2.4 million to the Midlands’ economy.
The new flights, which will operate twice weekly on Fridays and Mondays, between July 3, 2015 and August 28, 2015, will carry almost 4,000 Chinese tourists into the UK on package tours and will contribute a forecasted £19 million to the regional economy. The flights will be operated by a 223-seat Boeing 767-300 configured with 32 Business Class and 191 Economy seats.
You can learn more about the plans of Hainan Airlines at this year's Routes Asia in Kunming, Yunnan, China between March 15-17, 2015. The airline's Hou Wei, Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President will be on a panel session entitled 'Infrastructure - Capacity, Congestion, Construction - Can Countries Keep up with Demand?' during the Routes Asia Strategy Summit.
The extended programme of flights will be formally revealed later today (March 3, 2015) at a special event hosted by Birmingham Airport and Visit Britain at The GREAT Festival in Shanghai. The event will also be attended by Chen Xiaobing, president, Caissa Touristic and Hou Wei, vice president, Hainan Airlines as well as senior representatives from Birmingham’s business community, media and executives of HNA Group, parent of Caissa Touristic and Hainan Airlines.
The GREAT Festival in Shanghai is being led by the Duke of Cambridge Prince William, Trade Minister Lord Livingston and the Culture Secretary. It is taking place between March 2-5, 2015 to showcase the best of British creativity that can help businesses innovate and grow.
“There's so much more to the UK than London, so it's great that this new route will let Chinese visitors fly direct to the heart of England this summer. Improving international connections is a key part of our long-term economic plan, and a regular flight between China's capital and Britain's second city will boost the tourist industry and help forge links between businesses in both countries,” said Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Recent Office for National Statistics data shows that overseas visitor numbers to the region have increased by one-third, specifically from China where visitor numbers have more than doubled.
Birmingham Airport will also unveil its new Chinese branding – ‘Birmingham Airport, Shakespeare’s Airport’ at the event. It will be used in China to promote Birmingham as a gateway into the region which is home to many great places of interest to Chinese visitors, such as Stratford upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare.
Speaking to Routesonline ahead of today’s announcement, Jo Lloyd, commercial director, Birmingham International Airport said she was honoured to be able to host the direct charter flights from Beijing this summer.
“Not only is this a significant market test, it paves the way for future sustainable scheduled flights into Birmingham from China that will support the growth in Chinese visitors as well as the region’s economy. We are also hopeful that flight programmes will include departures from Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as Beijing to Birmingham in the future,” she said.
These new charter flights will help VisitBritain to achieve its target of £1 billion in Chinese visitor spend within five years – that’s over double the current annual level.
“China is a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. Our current share is small in volume but high in value. Chinese visitors already stay longer here than in our European competitor destinations and are high spenders – every 22 additional Chinese visitors we attract supports an additional job in tourism,” said Sally Balcombe, chief executive officer, VisitBritain.
China is currently one of the fastest growing visitor source markets for the UK tourism industry at a rate of 20 per cent year-on-year over the past few years. The size of the market has tripled over the past decade, and it is forecast to continue to grow strongly for the remainder of the decade.
According to statistics from the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), 1,375 passengers made use of the China Southern flights between Birmingham and Beijing in 2014. The data from the regulator shows a total of 973,619 passengers flew on flights between China and the UK last year, the majority between Beijing and London.
The chart below highlights annual segment demand between the two countries by month over the past five years. This data shows that passenger numbers grew 74.3 per cent between 2010 and 2014 and were up 19.1 per cent in 2014 versus the previous year.