With more than 130 million outbound trips made by Chinese travellers last year, this upward trend will continue to fan the development of more direct international air links and charter flight services from China, particularly from second-and third-tier cities.
Chinese lower-tier cities’ connectivity is growing faster than their tier one counterparts, with more than 10 non-stop routes mounted between China and Europe in 1H2018 alone, revealed Ivy Alliance Tourism Consulting.
Ctrip also lists tier two cities as among the beneficiaries of new air routes launched, such as Shenyang-Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Nanjing-Helsinki (Finnair), Wuhan-London (Hainan Airlines) and Chengdu-Zurich (Sichuan Airlines).
While Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu remain Europe’s top tourism source markets in China, rapid growth in international air connectivity is now seen for secondary cities like Kunming, Chongqing and Xi’an.
South-west China’s busiest air hub, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, last month welcomed a new route to Cairo, while a new airport – now under construction in Jianyang – is set to replace Shuangliu as the biggest airport in the province, Molly Dai, general manager, Sichuan Global International Travel, told TTG Asia.
Sun Bing, general manager of Nanjing-based CITS Jiang Su, said: “After the recent addition to St Petersburg and Helsinki, international flights from Nanjing are expected to grow next year. Scheduled flights to the Philippines’ Cebu and Manila are on our wishlist.”
The trade has been pushing for greater connectivity from western China too. Tokyo-based Eiwa International Tour Consultant’s president Zhou Wen has initiated talks on launching chartered flights linking Japan to cities like Gansu, Xi’an, Chengdu and Qinghai.
He explained: “We are optimistic about entering Western China because many Chinese (in this region) haven’t seen the world yet. For sure, there will be a lot of first-time outbound travellers there.
“I hope to grow (the region) further next year by launching charter flights to Xi’an or Lanzhou,” said Zhou.
However, Shanghai-based iview’s business development manager Zhang Jing-jing played down the threat from second- and third-tier cities, saying it’s “still a long way” for them to catch up with tier-one cities, especially in terms of frequency of international flights.