FROM THIS SUMMER, Ireland will have two direct flights to China after a second route was confirmed this week.
Last year, Cathay Pacific announced that it would operate a Dublin-Hong Kong route four times per week from 2 June.
Now it’s been announced that Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines will operate four flights a week from Dublin to Beijing, starting 12 June. It will be the first ever direct service from Ireland to mainland China.
Two days per week, the flights will be direct non-stop services between Dublin and Beijing. The other two weekly flights will operate with a stopover in Edinburgh.
Hainan Airlines was established in 1993 and carried 72 million passengers to 110 destinations last year.
It is part of the China-based HNA Group, which owns Dublin-based aircraft leasing firm Avolon.
Hainan has seven existing routes between China and western Europe and will operate the Irish service using an Airbus A330-300 aircraft.
The route was announced at a reception in the Irish embassy in Beijing attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and representatives from airport and tourism bodies.
According to Tourism Ireland, an estimated 70,000 Chinese visited Ireland last year. It said these new flights could increase this figure significantly.
“There’s a proven direct correlation between access and growth in visitor numbers, so this new flight will be a major game-changer in growing visitor numbers from China,” said Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Simon Coveney said the flights are vital both to increase tourism from China and to deepen two-way trade between the two nations.
“We’re going from a position where you couldn’t fly direct to China to now having two flights, both starting in June, both with the capacity to carry about 60,000 people per year. So I think we will see a very significant increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Ireland,” he said.
Coveney has also welcomed two new entry visas for Chinese citizens that have been introduced by the Department of Justice as part of efforts for greater integration.
One of the visas is a three-year multi-entry visa for business and tourist applicants and the other is a five-year visa for Chinese citizens who have ongoing business concerns in Ireland.
Written by Rónán Duffy and posted on TheJournal.ie. Additional reporting by Conor McMahon