Edinburgh is today [12 June] celebrating the vast economic potential of a new air-link with one of the world’s fastest growing emerging markets, as the first Hainan Airlines flight from Beijing lands in the Capital - the first ever direct flight from China to Scotland.
Two flights a week will now come to Edinburgh, the pinnacle of many years of hard work on the Edinburgh-China Air Link Project, which saw Marketing Edinburgh, Edinburgh Airport and the City of Edinburgh Council collaborate to attract a lucrative Chinese air service in the first joint partnership of its kind.
As one of the most valuable tourism markets worldwide, which has already contributed a phenomenal £26.5 million to Edinburgh’s economy pre-flight, the new route from China will bring increased spending across the board, with shops, restaurants, attractions and hotels directly benefiting from a starting capacity of an additional 29,000 Chinese visitors in the city.
The impact of Chinese visitors is well-recognised by the local business community, with independent jewellery retailer Laings, signing up as the lead sponsor for the Edinburgh-China project and The Edinburgh Hotels Association also backing the successful venture. Support from local businesses solidified the city’s confidence in the market and helped secure the flight path with Hainan Airlines.
Looking at the bigger picture, the direct connection presents a major marketing opportunity for the Capital, with promotion of the new route seeing Edinburgh profiled across the travel trade – in everything from in-flight magazines, to highway billboards and even within packaged travel products. The social media posts created by the influx of new Chinese visitors while they are here will also create valuable word-of-mouth recommendations, showcasing Edinburgh and Scotland as an outstanding place to visit.
Additionally, the new direct air route brings immediate rewards for Scottish businesses; without the need to stopover in London or elsewhere fresh produce can gain up to an extra 2-3 days shelf life in market, while the duration and cost of business trips will significantly reduce.
As well as short-term leisure visits, the increased connectivity the Hainan airlink provides is expected to attract a greater number of Chinese students to Scotland and investors, who are more likely to consider Edinburgh as their next business destination. The Beijing connection will act as a major hub for the whole of South East Asia, opening the doors to more visitors from countries like Singapore and Vietnam.
The Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh Frank Ross said: “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a number of organisations and it is fantastic for all of us to see the new flight schedule up and running. As the only Scottish city with a direct flight to China, the new route will provide Edinburgh with substantial outreach to Asia for tourism, business travel and investment opportunities. This will be supported by many across the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors through the city’s innovative ‘China Ready’ campaign and I’m sure it will also be welcomed by Edinburgh’s many business travellers and holiday-makers.”
Fiona Hunter, Edinburgh-China Air-link Project Manager said: “Securing a global flight connection on this scale is hugely encouraging of the Capital’s position as an outstanding place to visit, live, work, study and invest.
“The flight path is the result of many years of hard work and is really just the start of the opportunity for Edinburgh. Based on our research we expect to see the number of flights increase quite significantly over the next few years, bringing with it even more investment and economic influence.”
Jonathan Payne, Managing Director of Laings said: “When we first heard about the Edinburgh China Airlink Project we knew how important this would be for the tourism industry here in Edinburgh and had no hesitation about getting involved. The Chinese market is hugely influential and we can’t wait to build a connection with the new visitors the direct flight brings.”
Gordon Robertson, Director of Communications at Edinburgh Airport and Chairman of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “Having direct connectivity to China will deliver a massive tourism boost for the city and country’s economy and we’re delighted to welcome the first flight to the capital today. This really is testament to the support and backing of our campaign and we’re thrilled the work has paid off.”