THE FIRST ever direct flight between China and North of England will bring a major economic benefit to Yorkshire, business leaders and university bosses have claimed today.
From next month, Hainan Airlines will start flying from Manchester Airport, to Beijing with analysts predicting a surge in tourism and investment.
Currently, 9,883 people from Leeds fly to mainland China every year but have to travel indirectly via London or other overseas hubs.
It is estimated the Hainan route will deliver an economic boost to the UK worth £250m.
A large chunk of that - it is claimed - will be felt in Leeds as a result of productivity gains for businesses; the stimulation of trade and inward investment between the Far East and the region and by bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists to this part of the world every year.
Students, their families and universities as a whole are set to benefit as well across the county, with the route offering direct access home in the holidays, plus much quicker flights for friends and family visiting from China will be welcomed.
Doug Pearce, Head of International Student Recruitment at the University of Leeds, said: “Direct routes like this benefits universities like Leeds, sending a strong message to students from all over the globe – they are joining a vibrant, international university that is innovative and well connected to the rest of the world. Here at Leeds, we have a strong community of Chinese students, both in the UK and at our new joint-school based in Chengdu, and with this new direct route to Beijing, students now have even better access to the very best of Chinese and British higher education.”
Ken O’Toole, CEO of Manchester Airport, said: “Leeds has a strong business base covering a diverse range of sectors, with many companies already trading in the Far East, and so the existence of a non-stop route to Beijing will be of significant benefit.
“In addition, the service will hopefully encourage more businesses to start exporting their goods and services to this key market for the first time, while also being key to unlocking inward investment opportunities.”
Richard Bell, managing partner for regional markets at Deloitte, said: “The launch of a direct air route to China is key to unlocking more of the potential trade and investment opportunities that exist between the UK and The Far East. In particular, access to this route will provide greater scope for businesses across the North to explore the potential of the Chinese market for export, whilst at the same time allowing Chinese visitors an additional gateway into the UK.
“We have already seen the appetite for greater collaboration between the regions and China with strong links being formed between northern UK and Chinese universities, in addition to Chinese investment in key development projects. Having a direct air route should now make such cooperation easier to achieve - but on an even larger scale.”
A number of showcases have been organised in Yorkshire recently to highlight investment opportunities in Yorkshire for Chinese commerce.
Regional and business leaders from the Yangtze area of China meet their counterparts from across the North of England in Sheffield in March as part of the Government’s efforts to attract investment to strengthen the economy of the North.
Further summits are expected to be held with leaders from other parts of China.
Last year the council leaders from Leeds and Sheffield were part of a delegation to China led by Chancellor George Osborne to China seeking investment in the North.