The first direct, scheduled service from outside London to mainland China launches today (June 10) from Manchester Airport.
The four-times-a-week Hainan Airlines service to Beijing has been hailed as a significant boost for the region and the government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ ambitions.
The flights will give the 100,000 passengers who travel each year between the two cities the convenience of direct scheduled services.
The Manchester-Beijing route is estimated to be worth at least £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.
Two-thirds of this is expected to directly benefit the northern economy in terms of increased jobs, economic activity and tourism.
Sally Balcombe, VisitEngland/VisitBritain chief executive, said: “We want to deliver a world-class visitor experience for Chinese visitors and making it easier for them to get here is a crucial part of our competitive tourism offer.
“We want to double the spend from Chinese visitors to £1 billion by 2020 and Hainan’s new direct route to Manchester will not only make it easier for visitors to come and explore regional Britain but help us to deliver our ambitious plans for growth for this rapidly expanding market.”
Transport minister Andrew Jones added: “The new route between Manchester and Beijing is a testament to the strength of the Northern Powerhouse, opening up the north of England to investment.
“Not only will this add an estimated quarter of a billion pounds to the local economy over the next decade, it will open new opportunities for businesses in both countries [and] boost tourism between China and the UK.”
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale said: “This new route is a major breakthrough that will help boost tourism in the north of England.
“China is a hugely important trading partner and more Chinese visitors coming to the UK is great news for the tourism industry and the whole economy.”
Ken O’Toole, Manchester Airport chief executive, commented: “This direct route will…have a significant impact on inbound tourism across the whole of the north.
“And the early indications are good, with summer load factors currently averaging out at more than 80%.”
The service departs on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, and will be served by an Airbus A330-300, with return fares from £487.