Air China returns to London Gatwick with flights to Beijing

After a short break over the winter, China’s flagship carrier Air China is planning to return to London Gatwick with flights to Beijing.

Starting summer, Air China will provide a non-stop service from London Gatwick to Beijing International Airport four times a week on the Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which offers Business Class and Economy Class seating.

Business class passengers will benefit from a complimentary limousine service at either end of their journey, fully-flat seats and access to Gatwick’s No1 Traveller Lounge in the North Terminal.

Xiaoming Wu, General Manager for Air China UK and Ireland, said: ‘There is an increasingly strong demand for air travel between the UK and China’s major cities. Last year alone the number of passengers who flew between the two countries exceeded two million and Air China feels that it is now an excellent opportunity to capture good business in such a massive market.

‘London Gatwick is conveniently located less than 30 minutes away from central London by the express train and offers great facilities to business passengers, making it ideal for Chinese services. We trust that together with Air China’s strong network across Asia and Australia, our flights between Gatwick and Beijing will greatly enhance the passenger travel experience as well as benefiting the communications and exchanges between people across the two countries.’

Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick Airport CEO, said: ‘Air China’s services to Beijing demonstrate that Gatwick can support long haul routes and make them a success. We are sure that London’s passengers, who continue to choose to fly from Gatwick, as well as Chinese travellers wanting easy access into central London, will be delighted to have even greater choice of flights between London and the Far East.

‘This route provides another essential air link to Beijing, a key high-growth market which offers UK businesses significant trade opportunities alongside the other emerging destinations Gatwick serves – from Vietnam to Russia and the Middle East.’

And beyond Beijing also, Air China’s connections across Asia and onto Australia are fast, affordable and diverse. The new regulation also offers the opportunity to stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours without the need for a visa, benefiting both business and leisure travellers.

 

British Airways to commence Chengdu flights from London Heathrow

British Airways, the UK’s national carrier, has launched new direct flights from London Heathrow to Chengdu in southwest China.

The British airline said that it would provide the 777-200ER service three-times-weekly flight from September 22. British Airways will be the only UK carrier to offer a direct service between Changdu Shuangliu International Airport and London Heathrow. For travellers booking between now and January 6, flights will be on offer for £508 return, including taxes and charges, The Telegraph noted in its report.

The route will be served by a four-cabin Beoing 777, with First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy). The airline said that it plans to switch from a Boeing 777 service to the 787-8 Dreamliner during the summer of 2014, and increase weekly flight from three to five.

One of China’s largest cities, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is famous for the Chengdu Panda Base, a research centre dedicated to the successful breeding and conservation of giant pandas. Sichuan is renowned for its spicy cuisine and features the Sichuan Opera, a 200-year-old tradition involving songs and dance, colourful costumes and a skilful display of ‘face-changing’, involving masks.

Keight Williams, British Airways’ chief executive, said, ‘Chengdu is a fascinating venue for leisure travellers, and is known around the world for its famous giant pandas and excellent fiery Sichuan cuisine.

‘We are confident that the new route between Chengdu and London will prove popular with customers travelling between the two major economic hubs.’

Chengdu is the fourth Chinese city to allow visa-free entry for foreign travellers, following Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. The policy applies to visitors from 45 countries, including Britain, the US, France and Singapore. British Airways already flies to Beijing and Shanghai.

Earlier this month, BA announced the launch of flights to the South Korean capital, Seoul, and said that it will increase services from Heathrow to Amman, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jeddah, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto from next summer.

Chinese state to fund new London airport

China is set to add another British asset to its portfolio, as London mayor, Boris Johnson, is preparing to approach China and South Korea for state funds to build the Isle of Grain airport in north Kent.

The Mayor’s advisers have reportedly held talks with Chinese sovereign investment fund, China Investment Corporation (CIC), and officials in Seoul to fund the project. Other institutional investors, including City-based pension funds and infrastructure firms, have also said that they would consider funding the Isle of Grain scheme, which has been called the Thames Hub Airport. CIC is already a minority shareholder in Heathrow Airport Holdings.

According to architect company, Foster+Partners, the project is estimated to cost £24bn.

Last week, Johnson discarded the plan for ‘Boris Island’ airport and endorsed the option of building a new airport on the Isle of Grain. He also proposed the closure of Heathrow, which he said the government should buy for £15bn and turn into a town housing 250,000 people.

In addition to the Isle of Grain project, the Mayor also commissioned feasibility studies on a new artificial island in the Thames Estuary and on an expansion of Stansted. All of the options would require four runways, he said.

‘Ambitious cities all over the world are already stealing a march on us and putting themselves in a position to eat London’s breakfast, lunch and dinner by constructing mega-airports that plug them directly into the global supply chains that we need to be part of,’ he said last week.

The report comes as China’s sovereign wealth funds bought $4.7bn worth of British assets last year. Chinese institutions are also being approached for several other new UK projects, including a new ‘super-sewer’ under London and the next generation of nuclear power stations.

Gatwick sustains passenger figures with help of new airlines

Gatwick Airport in the UK has managed to sustain its 2012/13 passenger figures slightly ahead of last year thanks to new carriers that have opened services to the airport.

The airport had lost routes from its previous carriers but still achieved an increase of 400,000 passengers or 1.2 percent on the previous year, for a total footfall of 34.2 million. Ryanair’s Irish routes and Korean Air’s Seoul service were among Gatwick’s larger casualties, but new business from Air China, Iraqi Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Vueling, Gambia Bird and Icelandair more than filled the gap. In addition, Easyjet added a Moscow service, Norwegian Air Shuttle added 12 new routes and British Airways added new services to Europe and the Caribbean.

Stewart Wingate, chief executive at Gatwick, said, ‘Today, passengers can fly direct to Beijing, Istanbul, Moscow and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam from Gatwick. This is important in the context of ensuring the UK has the international connectivity it needs to remain globally competitive. We will continue into this next financial year with the same drive and focus to create a world-class airport.’

The airport is currently undergoing a £1.2 billion upgrade, some of which has been spent on remodelling the South Terminal departures area that will reopen this summer. It is now also capable of accommodating the new giant Airbus A380 aircraft, following the completion of a new pier that received a test flight just a few days ago. Gatwicks owner, Global Infrastructure Partners, will now be keen to secure regular traffic for that investment, which could dramatically increase passenger figures without impinging greatly on the airport’s flight capacity.

Air China Offers New Frankfurt to Chengdu Direct Service

Air China, the China-based, state-owned airline company, is offering a new non-stop service from Chengdu, in China, to Frankfurt airport, in Germany.

The new service commences from May 19, 2013, and is intended to help to position Chengdu as an air transportation hub for southwestern China.

Around 62 of the airline’s domestic, international and regional routes currently serve Chengdu. The new Chengdu to Frankfurt service is intended to make it easier for passengers from Europe to travel to the southwest region of China.

The three times weekly service will be operated with an Airbus A330-200 on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The aircraft features personal Audio Video on Demand (AVOD) in all classes of service, and lie-flat seats in Business Class.

The airline already offers direct services from Frankfurt to Beijing and Shanghai, and it is part of the extensive Star Alliance network, through which it can offer its passengers access to 1,356 destinations in 193 countries and regions.

In May 2012, the airline launched its new service from London Gatwick Airport to Beijing International Airport, which operates four times a week and is intended to expand its services to the city of London. Air China is also offering a fast track immigration service at London Heathrow Airport for its VIP passengers flying from Beijing to the UK.

Air China is currently the 10th largest airline, by fleet size, in the world, with a fleet of 330-200 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, which operate on 289 routes, and serve a total of 143 cities.

China to encourage outbound tourism

China is rolling out initiatives to encourage outbound tourism.

The ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) in Beijing has plans to launch a series of programmes in 2013 to increase tourism from China to other states. The initiative will especially focus on Southeast Asian regions where tourists from China have not been going in large numbers.

ACC secretary general, Ma Mingqiang, said, ‘Some 90 percent of Chinese travel to Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, but only about 11 percent head to South-east Asia. There is obviously still a lot of growth potential for this region. Chinese tourists spent USD7.2bn in Europe during the last Lunar New Year holidays. Why should Chinese tourists go all the way to Europe when the same luxury products they desire can be found in Singapore and Malaysia too?’

The focus of the initiative is on developing local markets and also markets in nearby nations, which will generate returns for China in the long run. The centre said that it would employ a number of means, the most important being awareness through the media.

There is a general belief that the Chinese know little about the 10 ASEAN countries, and there are plans to promote documentaries via China’s TV channels and hold a tourism exhibition at the Wangfujing building in Beijing during the Labour Day holiday, which sees 310,000 visitors daily. A travel guidebook for Chinese travellers will also be produced

Welcoming ACC’s initiatives, Saly Phimphinith, director general for tourism marketing department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in Laos, said, ‘I hope (ACC’s efforts) will drive the middle- and high-end segments to Laos, as Chinese tourists to Laos are generally lower-spending compared to Europeans.’

 

VisitBritain to Woo Chinese Travellers

VisitBritain, the official tourism website for Great Britain, will be wooing the Chinees market, with a tourism delegation from the UK set to visit Shanghai, in China, this week.

The visit is part of a trade mission, and will be aiming to re-ignite the interests of Chinese travellers in the UK, following the London 2012 Olympic games. The delegation will be meeting important Chinese travel agents through appointments and seminars.

Keith Beecham, the leader of the China mission and director of overseas for VisitBritain, said, ‘The UK tourism opportunities from China are vast, numerous and there to be developed further, especially in this crucial post-London 2012 period.

Such was the demand from the industry that our mission could have been booked more than three times over. Everyone now recognises that China is a hugely important market for tourism and these business trips will help us achieve our target of welcoming 382,000 Chinese visitors by 2020.’

Recent research shows that the UK remains an attractive tourist destination for people from China, who are drawn to the country’s culture and heritage, countryside and shopping experiences.

In the last five years, the UK has seen a 39 percent increase in visitors from China, and the agency intends to increase this by 150 percent by 2020.

Earlier, VisitBritain announced its new ‘The Big British Invite’ campaign, featuring real British people, who will be inviting tourists to visit Britain for its scenic places and experiences. In its new phase, the campaign will be placing advertising aimed at travellers in the US, India, China, Japan and the Middle East.

The agency will be investing £5m for its partnership with British Airways to persuade travellers to visit Britain for Christmas shopping and to avail of the January sales, with a special offer from British Airways. The main campaign is running from October 2012 to March 2013.

Beijing Feeling offers tours to Beijing

China-based BeijingFeeling.com, a travel service company in Beijing, is offering a novel travel service to Beijing.

The company has announced its Beijing Feeling Tour Service, which includes Old and New Beijing tour packages. The firm said that under the Old Beijing Feeling Tour package, tourists would be taken to visit the old Hutongs in Beijing and the ancient Great Wall of China. The tours would highlight the structures that were characteristic of old Beijing, and which added to its historical splendour.

In contrast to the Old Beijing Feeling Tour is the New Beijing Tour, which essentially highlights the modern aspects of Beijing and offers a stark contrast to Old Beijing. The tour mainly includes the Bird Nest stadium, which is considered to be one of the ‘World’s Top 10 Constructions,’ the CCTV Headquarters, the 798 Art Factory, Houhai Bar Street, Nanluoguxiang street and Yandai Byway. Each of these locations reflects the modern China. For example, the 798 Art Zone is a part of Dashanzi in the Chaoyang District of Beijing that houses a thriving artistic community. It also houses 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style and is often compared with New York’s Greenwich Village or Soho.

The purpose of the tours is to highlight the splendour of old Beijing and the modernisation of the capital that was carried out without losing its ancient elements.

Alan Zhang, CEO of BeijingFeeling.com, said, ‘The Old Beijing Feeling Tour will provide visitors a good chance to experience the aged Beijing lifestyle and culture. The old Hutong tour shows you the traditional culture and original lifestyle. Visitors on Hutong tour will visit the typical Chinese quadrangles, where you can experience the real life of ordinary people in Beijing. We try to be original, unique and different from our competitors in how to satisfy and impress our valuable clients. Additionally, we provide visitors with a fast, sincerity, flexibility and reliable response to their requirements in China.’

Founded in 2008, BeijingFeeling.com offers more than 200 pre-designed packages to China.

New air service expected to connect Chengdu with Melbourne

China-based Sichuan Airlines is expected to launch a service soon connecting Chengdu in China to Melbourne, Australia.

It is expected that an official communication in this regard from the Chinese airline would come soon. The plan to connect Chengdu with the Australian city assumes significance because of the fact that Chengdu is one of three new cities in China that Tourism Australia is planning to target next year. The funding for the initiative is to be derived from the Australian government’s new Asia Marketing Fund. The move is also part of the government’s broader China geographic strategy of deepening its marketing footprint into ‘smaller’ cities in China.

Chengdu is high on the list of priorities of the Australian government, and in April this year Tourism Australia led a high level delegation of Australia’s leading airports to attend Routes Asia 2012, an aviation route development forum. The importance afforded to Chinese cities is part of a plan by Australian tourism authorities to double overnight visitor expenditure to up to AUD140bn annually by 2020.

Andrew McEvoy, managing director, Tourism Australia, said, ‘Chengdu represents one of China’s fastest emerging secondary cities and largest aviation hubs in central western China, and has the potential to open up significant new markets for us. Our research has clearly demonstrated the appetite for travel amongst the new middle classes in these cities but, to fully realise these opportunities it’s critical that we get more capacity and, in particular, more direct flights.’

McEvoy added, ‘Securing more aviation capacity into Australia from China was a key feature of our discussions and networking in Chengdu. It was also a great opportunity to demonstrate to Asian carriers our industry’s renewed commitment towards speaking and acting with a single voice when it comes to marketing our country overseas. Melbourne Airport are to be congratulated for their foresight in developing such strong links with Chengdu, through the ‘sister airport’ relationship they established at Routes Asia. Their success in securing Sichuan Airlines represents a significant win for this ‘Team Australian’ approach and, together with Tourism Victoria, we plan to market this new route hard.’

Tourism could hurt Yunnan monkey reserve

The Yunnan monkey reserve in China is seeing an increase in the number of tourists, which environmentalists say could harm the monkeys.

The reserve is home to black snub-nosed monkeys, which are very rare. It is believed that there are less than 2,500 of them left in the wild.

The reserve in south western China had been set up to increase the number of monkeys after their numbers declined due to expanding human population. However, as the number of tourists to the reserve is increasing, authorities are worried that the monkeys could suffer from the increase in human contact. The reserve is located in the Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve, which is home to around 1,200 black snub-nosed monkeys, rhinopithecus bieti.

Speaking to Xinhua news, Zhongtai Tsering, head of the reserve, reportedly said that tourist numbers had increased from one to three per day to more than 30 per day. Tourists from both China and abroad are coming to observe the white-faced and red-lipped animals. Even though the increase in tourism is helpful for the protection of the monkeys, zoologists are worried that humans could pass on diseases to the monkeys, which are now accustomed to humans. There are also fears that close encounters with humans could alter monkeys’ behaviour and also endanger the environment in which they live.

Tsering said, ‘We have been following and observing a group of 90 black snub-nosed monkeys, feeding them regularly and giving tourists access to their habitat. Obviously, the group is under greater risk of contagion from human diseases, including catching a cold or suffering from diarrhoea. But personally I believe it is still worthwhile to prompt the protection of the whole species by exposing a small number of them to tourists.’