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Direct flight to China 'absolutely vital', says Ireland tourism chief

By Conal Urquhart in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-05-22 17:30

A regular direct flight between China and Ireland is vital for Ireland's economy and its tourism business, the head of Tourism Ireland said at a conference in Cork.

Niall Gibbons, who has just returned from a promotional visit to China, said at the Asia Matters conference that Ireland should consider improving its visa system to encourage Chinese visitors.

"That direct flight is absolutely vital, that is number one," Gibbons said, before pointing out that the United States and Japan offer Chinese tourists 10-year visas in an effort to increase tourism.

Chinese businesses travelers and other tourists are becoming increasingly interested in Ireland. Earlier this month, the Irish government revealed that there had been a 500 percent increase in applications from people wanting to take part in the immigration investment scheme, almost all of them from China. Out of the 329 people who applied to take part in the scheme, in which participants receive residency rights in return for investing in Irish assets, property, or businesses, 313 were from China. The rest came from 11 other countries.

That growth corresponds to a surge in Chinese investment in Ireland last year. Chinese companies plowed in 2.7 billion euros, compared to 66 million euros in 2015. The increase was mostly the result of HNA Group's 2.5 billion euro purchase of part of the Irish aircraft leasing group Avolon.

China's ambassador to Ireland, Yue Xiaoyong, said at the same conference that bilateral trade between Ireland and China was picking up this year, after a 13.75 percent growth last year.

He also urged Ireland to build more quality hotels to accommodate increased tourism visits from Chinese nationals.

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