Flights from Manchester Airport to China have returned to pre-pandemic levels and are expected to ‘significantly’ boost trade, tourism and investment.
Hainan Airlines is now offering four fights per week between Manchester and Beijing instead of just one.
Since the airline launched flights to Beijing in 2016, investment from China has soared across the region, and so these extra flights are a positive indication for future opportunities.
The airport said pre-pandemic, around 100,000 people a year travelled between Manchester and Beijing from the its catchment area. Studies, added bosses, showed the route led to a 38 per cent increase in Chinese visitors to the North, with an average spend per visit increasing by 94 per cent and export values growing by 41 per cent to £1.29bn.
Flights will now operate every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, all by the Airbus A330 aircraft which signifies a significant economic boost to the region.
Chris Woodroofe Managing Director of Manchester Airport said: “The economic benefits of more regular flights between Manchester and Beijing will be significant, whether that be in terms of trade, tourism or inward investment.
“But the positive impacts go beyond that. Manchester’s Chinese community is part of the fabric of the city, and this increase in frequency will make it much easier for people to travel in both directions to visit friends and family.
“As the final international travel restrictions have been removed, it has been hugely exciting to see services like this return to full strength, underlining Manchester Airport’s role as the UK’s global gateway in the north.
“I look forward to working with Hainan Airlines to make this service as successful as possible.”
Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “This is great news not just for Manchester but the whole of the north of England.
“Manchester Airport acts as the North’s long-haul hub, giving us access to key global markets such as China which are absolutely vital for our economy, unlocking billions through trade, tourism and investment.
“It’s also critical for supporting the thousands of international students, who come to the Northern Powerhouse to study at our world-leading universities.
“Export values grew 41 per cent to £1.29bn in the two years after the route first launched in 2016, while enquiries from China about investment in the Greater Manchester area doubled.
“Our own analysis found that inward investment into the north from Asia has grown significantly in recent years and now that regular flights have resumed, we hope this upward trend can continue.”
Sheona Southern, Managing Director of Marketing Manchester, said: “China is a key global market for Greater Manchester, and it is welcome news that Hainan Airlines will increase its direct flight frequency from Beijing to Manchester Airport with four flights per week.
“This increased route capacity will be hugely beneficial to Greater Manchester’s visitor economy, with pre-Covid spend generating a £260m boost to the local economy, and a wealth of other benefits such as increased opportunities for trade and tourism, offering a positive impact on accommodation bookings, retail, restaurants and attractions throughout the region, alongside an increase in Chinese visitors choosing Greater Manchester as a place to visit, live, work, study and invest.”
Emma Degg, Chief Executive Officer, North West Business Leadership Team, said: “The north west is a region built on trade and we need the right connections to the rest of the world to prosper and grow.
“We know that enquiries about investment in the area from China doubled in the two years after the route was first launched from Manchester Airport in 2016.
“News that flights between Manchester and Beijing are returning to pre-pandemic levels opens up new future opportunities for businesses and universities of great value to the North and wider UK PLC.”
Kenny Murray, General Manager, Cheshire Oaks, said: “We welcome the news that Hainan Airlines is increasing its number of flights from Beijing to Manchester to pre-pandemic levels.
“This will support the ongoing recovery of Chinese tourism arrivals in the region in 2023 and beyond.
“ Chinese visitors have always played an important role in our international customer mix and it has been great to finally see them return to Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet since the beginning of this year.”
Manchester is home to one of the country’s biggest and most well-established Chinese communities.
Manchester’s Chinatown was first established more than 100 years ago and the city’s first Chinese restaurant – the Ping Hong in Mosley Street – opened in 1948. According to the 2011 Census more than 13,500 Chinese residents live in Manchester, more than any city in the UK outside London.
The news has been welcomed by the Chinese community and civic leaders from across the city region.