Tourism Ireland: Direct flights to China are "vital"

CEO Niall Gibbons is eager to take advantage of the Chinese tourism boom...

Direct flights between Ireland and China will soon be a reality, if Tourism Ireland gets its way.

Chief executive Niall Gibbons has renewed his appeal for a direct route to make the most of a potential $442bn Chinese tourism boom.

He also wants Ireland to become "visa friendly" to the expanding superpower, noting that both the US and Japan are already offering 10-year visas to Chinese citizens in a bid to boost the influx of people.

The Irish Independent reports that Gibbons told a conference on building partnerships with Asia:

"Direct flight is absolutely vital, that is number one."

He revealed that Tourism Ireland has submitted marketing proposals via the Dublin Airport Authority in the hopes of teaming up with a Chinese airline.

Dr Yue Xiaoyong, the Chinese ambassador to Ireland, also informed the Asia Matters conference that bilateral trade between Ireland and China was picking up "dramatically", following 13.75% growth in 2016.

The ambassador called for the development of more quality Irish hotels to accommodate the increased number of Chinese tourists.

Its overseas tourism market is currently worth $261bn, but that should swell to $442bn by 2020 – with global visits rising from 135 million to 200 million. 

The Asia Matters conference also heard that 20% of our foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2016 came from Asia.

In other aviation news, the head of Cork Airport has claimed he is confident that direct flights from the Rebel County to New York will happen "in the near future". 

The Irish Examiner reports that Niall MacCarthy told a gathering of European airport leaders in Cork that Munster-wide support was required to make Norwegian Air's upcoming Cork-US route a success:

"Cork Airport is far too large just to serve one county. I am confident that Providence will succeed and Norwegian has done an excellent marketing job. The winter especially will be crucial."

Norwegian will launch flights in July, with the director general of Airports Continental International Europe Olivier Jankovec stating that the "eyes of the regional aviation world" were on Cork this summer. 

Norwegian itself has said that its unlikely that its Boeing 737Max could reach New York from Cork, which was originally planned. It seems like another airline could use Airbus' A320Neo aircraft to make the trip.