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Los Angeles soars on new direct flights from Chengdu
Raini Hamdi, Shanghai, May 16, 2017

Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board will be opening its fourth office in China in Chengdu this week, on the back of new direct services by Hainan Airlines.


Hainan Airlines in March launched non-stop flights from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and Chongqing. Both flights operate twice-weekly.


Los Angeles International Airport


Although there are flights from Chengdu to Los Angeles, the direct flights present new opportunities. “Before it’s a bit tough for these travellers as they have to go via Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other hubs,”said Kate Chang, the board’s regional director-China.


Last October, Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines launched its first intercontinental services from Chengdu to Los Angeles via Jinan and Hangzhou, both twice weekly. Thrice-weekly Chengdu-Nanjing-Los Angeles flight operated by China Eastern Airlines have been in the air since 2015.


With Hainan’s direct flights and the new Sichuan Airlines services via Jinan and Hangzhou, Los Angeles is keen to tap the China outbound market from Chengdu and beyond, such as the Chongqing market, added Chang.


The Chengdu office will be Los Angeles’ fourth tourism office in China after Beijing, which opened last year, Guangzhou (2015) and Shanghai (2013). It will be headed by a newly-appointed director, Vincent Tang, who was a tour operator and most recently Brand USA representative in China.


Stephanie Nakasone, the board’s senior director-tourism, said last year was significant as Los Angeles became the first US city to receive over one million Chinese travellers. The number of Chinese visitors had been growing at an average rate of around 20 per cent per year for the last seven years, she said.


“With four direct services, we’re very excited, and we’ll be working with the tour operators in Chengdu and Chongqing on (devising) packages that will bring out the real Los Angeles for Chinese clients. We’re leading the Los Angeles delegation here on a sales mission to Chengdu (after ITB China) to connect to the tour operators, also to learn what the needs of the Chinese travellers are,” said Nakasone.


According to Michael Czarcinski, managing director of The Westin Bonadventure Hotel and Suites, the largest hotel in Los Angeles with 1,358 rooms, China market has transformed over the years. “Before, the travellers stayed outside of Los Angeles then visited the city, now it’s the reverse; they stay in Los Angeles then visit Hollywood, Downtown, Universal Studios, Disneyland, etc,” he said.


Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board has also launched a ‘Welcome’ initiative, thanking its trade supporters and the travelling public and also reminding them that Los Angeles remains welcoming and friendly to visitors, according to Nakasone when asked if Trump’s immigration policies have had any impact on the image of the US as being open to visitors.


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