New flights between China and Birmingham this summer could add £19m to West Midlands economy
Birmingham Airport is launching a new summer service of direct flights between the West Midlands to the Chinese capital, Beijing, this summer, it was revealed today
The new was announced by Culture Secretary Sajid Javid at the Great Festival in Shanghai, the British business showcase in China this week that is being led by the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, and Trade Minister Lord Livingston.
The new service will see Birmingham Airport hosting a programme of charter flights from Beijing carrying almost 4,000 Chinese tourists into the UK on package tours and contributing £19 million to the regional economy.
Sajid Javid said: "There's so much more to the UK than London, so it's great that this new route will let Chinese visitors fly direct to the heart of England this summer."
Hainan Airlines will operate twice weekly flights on a Boeing 767-300 aircraft, with 223 seats – 32 in the business cabin and 191 in economy. The flights will operate from Beijing to Birmingham each Friday and Monday, starting on Friday July3 and ending on the Saturday August 28.
It follows a short series of tourist flights last summer – the first to make use of Birmingham's newly extended runway which allows for direct flights to the Far East and the West Coast of the USA.
Jo Lloyd, Birmingham Airport's commercial director, said: "We are honoured to be able to once again host the UK's only direct charter flights from Beijing this summer and look forward to welcoming the thousands of Chinese passengers arriving twice weekly into the Midlands during the summer.
"Not only is this a significant market test, it paves the way for future sustainable scheduled flights into Birmingham from China that will support the growth in Chinese visitors as well as the region's economy. We are also hopeful that flight programmes will include departures from Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as Beijing to Birmingham in the future."
Birmingham Airport also unveiled its new Chinese branding – 'Birmingham Airport, Shakespeare's Airport' - at the event. It will be used in China to promote Birmingham as a gateway into the region which is home to many great places of interest to Chinese visitors, such as Stratford upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare.
Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain, said: "These new charter flights will help us achieve our target of £1 billion Chinese visitor spend within five years – that's over double the current annual level.
"China is a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. Our current share is small in volume but high in value. Chinese visitors already stay longer here than in our European competitor destinations and are high spenders – every 22 additional Chinese visitors we attract supports an additional job in tourism.
"Having direct access to Birmingham will not only increase tourism to the local area, but importantly, across the nations and regions of Britain – something VisitBritain leads on."
Also present at the launch event in Shanghai were representatives from the Birmingham business community including Aston Villa Football Club, Shanghai Automotive, Wragg & Co, Birmingham University and NVC Lighting.
Former Aston Villa football player and vlub ambassador Ian Taylor, said: "Along with other businesses across the region, we support Birmingham Airport as an alternative gateway into the UK.
"Aston Villa has seen a huge growth in our Asian fan base in the last 12 months, primarily through our tailored Chinese social media and the Premier League's huge broadcast reach. It's great that these fans will now have a direct route into the city to watch their favorite football team. Aston Villa is delighted to support this initiative by joining Birmingham Airport in Shanghai and being part of such a historic occasion."
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