Gatwick and Birmingham airports will launch services to China this summer, offering the lucrative inbound Chinese market more ways to reach the UK.
Starting from June 25, Chinese carrier Tianjin Airlines will operate on the new Gatwick-Chongqing-Tianjin route – the airline’s first long-haul flights outside Asia and one that complements its existing network serving more than 100 cities across China. Both cities are currently not flown to from the UK.
Guy Stephenson, Gatwick’s chief commercial officer, said: “By flying into two of China’s most important economic centres, Gatwick is providing vital direct connections for UK business people into some of the most exciting growth markets on the planet.
“Tourists from both the UK and China will also benefit. The number of tourists from China also grew almost 40% last year alone and these numbers are only going to rise.”
Birmingham Airport will see new scheduled services from Birmingham to Beijing and Birmingham to Shanghai (Hangzhou Airport).
The Beijing Capital Airlines services start on July 19 and follow the success of direct charter flights, which saw more than 7,000 Chinese visitors travel through Birmingham Airport during 2014 and 2015.
These flights will be on sale to UK residents and will also be sold to inbound travellers through the Chinese tour operator Caissa Touristic, one of China’s most important travel companies.
Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham Airport, said: “We have reached one of our goals – to offer direct scheduled services to China.
“We have made the investment, developed the market and today is testament that our region has enormous demand for direct flights to China.
“These flights will give our region direct access to China and will also offer Chinese tourists an alternative gateway to the UK, which has previously proved so popular.”
The airport recently unveiled Shakespearean artworks to greet the millions of visitors arriving at ‘Shakespeare’s Airport’ each year.
Birmingham Airport markets itself as Shakespeare’s Airport overseas, particularly in China and the US.
Patricia Yates, VisitBritain and VisitEngland director, added: “China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain.
“We have ambitions to double the spend from Chinese visitors to £1 billion by 2020 and making it easier for them to get here is obviously a really important step in increasing our competitive tourism offer to this rapidly growing market.”