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New air routes could lift tourist numbers

By Wang Mingjie | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-18 10:15

The number of people travelling between the Chinese mainland and Ireland could increase by as much as 300 percent once the countries are linked by regular direct flights in June.

Hainan Airlines will begin flying between Beijing and Dublin on June 12.

Vincent Harrison, managing director of Dublin Airport, said: "Once a long-haul service is in place, there will be two times the volume of passenger growth, and sometimes it could be three times depending on the market."

Harrison said around 120,000 passengers travelled between the two countries last year and that Ireland is the most popular destination in Europe for Chinese travellers that does not currently have a direct flight.

The direct link adds convenience and will allow people to travel much more frequently on business and more easily for leisure, boosting passenger numbers, he said.

Hainan Airlines will operate flights from Dublin to Beijing four times per week. On two days per week, the service will be direct nonstop flights between Dublin and Beijing. The other two days, the flights will also stop in Edinburgh.

The possibility of flying directly to Ireland will generate publicity and interest in China. "If no Chinese airline is flying to Ireland, people are not talking about Ireland or promoting it, but as soon as they start presenting that as an option, things will be different," Harrison said.

Meanwhile, 10 days ahead of the first Dublin to Beijing route, Cathay Pacific is to launch a new direct Dublin-Hong Kong service four times per week, starting on June 2.

Tourism Ireland estimates that about 70,000 Chinese visitors visited the island last year, up from 60,000 in 2016.

Mary Rose Burke, CEO of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said: "People in China may not understand how excited we are in Dublin and Ireland about the direct flight both to Beijing and Hong Kong.

"It opens up people's imagination of what might be possible in a huge way. There is a huge sense of goodwill, excitement and romance. I think it is important to capture some of that because decisions are made on business in an economic way, but also made around emotion and connection and ease of doing business."

According to Kieran Donoghue, global head of International Financial Services, Strategy and Public Policy at IDA Ireland, trade between Ireland and China in 2017 was worth more than 14.9 billion euros ($18.45 billion), double the figure from 2013.

He believes the new direct route will greatly facilitate Irish firms and exporters with operations and clients in China, as well as China's financial services and technology companies investing in Ireland.

Donohue said Ireland will be a "large alternative" to the UK for Chinese investors in the aftermath of Brexit.

"Ireland looks like the largest alternative for Chinese investors because we have effectively the same legal system as the UK, we're English-speaking and we preserve the market access," he said.

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