Eastern England lobbies for Stansted-China link

A new East of England-China Forum has been created to work towards a direct air link between the region and China, and to boost tourism.

At their first meeting, Stansted Airport representatives, business leaders and local politicians agreed to build on their relationships in China and to provide a focus for organisations looking to increase their connectivity with the Chinese. Also at the first meeting were Visit Essex and Visit East Anglia.

Ken O’Toole, Stansted chief executive, said: “As China becomes an increasingly important force in 21st century global trade, it is of paramount importance that the east of England, plus north and east London, has in place a clear strategy that allows it to nurture long-term economic ties with the country.

“In the next few years, China is expected to overtake the US to become the biggest aviation market in the world and together with a relaxation of visa and flight restrictions for Chinese visitors, now is the time for the region to come together to secure new direct links between our region and China.

“It is crucial we build a strong coalition of businesses, universities, tourism agencies and local government to demonstrate the size of the opportunity to airlines.”

Claire Ruskin, chief executive of the Cambridge Network, added: “Nearly 5% of the population in Cambridge is Chinese and we have considerable activity between businesses and institutions in this region and across China already. Direct links from Stansted will encourage even more productive relationships.”

A similar coalition has already proved successful in Manchester, where a partnership between Manchester Airport, local government, tourism agencies, universities and the business community helped to secure direct links to Hong Kong and Beijing in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Pictured from left: Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council; John Keddie, Harlow Enterprise Zone; Ken O’Toole, Stansted; and Rhys Whalley, Manchester-China Forum.