The UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, has endorsed news that Birmingham Airport, UK, will become the country’s first gateway to offer UK charter package tours from China and the first UK airport outside of London to launch direct charter flights to China.
The joint initiative between Birmingham Airport, China Southern Airlines, Caissa Travel Management Co Ltd and Birmingham China specialist agency, United Travel, demonstrates the enormous demand for more flights between the two countries.
The Secretary of State said: “This is great news for Birmingham and Britain. China is a vital trade and tourism partner for us and opening up this new route will encourage even more Chinese visitors to fly to our country and experience more of what our great nation has to offer outside of the capital – from tourist attractions to shopping, culture to heritage. The new route will provide great investment and job opportunities for businesses in Birmingham and the Midlands.”
It is now possible to fly direct between Birmingham and Beijing thanks to a £40 million investment by Birmingham Airport to extend the runway, which will open next month. The runway extension will provide airlines with unlimited take off range, allowing jets to fly direct to China, and puts Birmingham in an ideal place to become an alternative gateway to the UK for flights from China and beyond.
The summer programme will involve direct flights operated by China Southern Airlines arriving from Beijing into Birmingham between July 22 and August 6. Caissa, one of China’s leading travel specialists, will sell a range of organised package tours to Chinese visitors seeking to explore the tourism attractions in the Midlands, the North of England and London. China Southern Airlines will operate a 248 seat A330-200 aircraft on the route.
Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport’s Chief Executive, said: “Today’s announcement is a result of three years’ collaborative working to establish relationships in China and promote the many jewels that the Midlands has to offer, such as The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Warwick Castle, Bicester Village and the vibrant city of Birmingham itself.
“There is an alternative gateway into the UK for those wanting to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick and Birmingham – destinations that make this country great. This partnership also demonstrates that the demand is there from passengers across the UK who want long-haul flights to places like China from their nearest gateway.”
China is currently one of the fastest growing visitor source markets for the UK tourism industry at a rate of 20% year-on-year over the past few years. The size of the market has tripled over the past decade, and it is forecast to continue to grow strongly for the remainder of the decade. In 2012 the Chinese visitor market was worth £15 million to the West Midlands economy, with Birmingham now the fourth most popular destination for Chinese visitors in England.
A number of ‘seat only’ tickets and package holidays, flying direct, are also available for UK residents wishing to visit China.