AIRPORT bosses are hopeful of adding further routes between Edinburgh and China in the near future after it was confirmed the first direct flights from Scotland to Beijing would be taking off this summer.
Carrier Hainan Airlines announced it will operate two nonstop flights a week between the city and the Chinese capital from June 12 in what is being called a “huge step forward” for Edinburgh’s tourism industry.
Two other weekly routes to Beijing Capital International Airport will set off from the city, but include a stopover in Dublin as part of an ‘innovative’ flight model.
The route announcement is reportedly the culmination of three years of negotiations between representatives from the capital and their Chinese counterparts in a move that could attract thousands more tourists to the capital from the Far East.
And airport chiefs say the new link could pave the way for further connections between Edinburgh and other major Chinese cities.
Edinburgh Airport chairman Sir John Elvidge said: “It’s a great breakthrough for us and a huge step forward for Scotland’s connections with the rest of the world. The tourism and business communities have been asking for years for this and we are delighted to be able to deliver it for them.”
“We hope there will be more routes between Edinburgh and China and we are having conversations about further connections.”
He added: “I will be in China next month continuing those conversations.”
The nonstop flight will cut travel times on the 5,000 mile journey from 15 to around 11-and-a-half hours.
A total of 41,000 trips were made from China to Scotland in 2016, which generated spending of £36m, while around 10,000 Chinese students currently study at Scottish universities.
However, consulate-general Pan Xinchun said the flights should prove just as popular with Scottish visitors heading East.
He said: “The route should encourage more Chinese people to visit Scotland, but we want to see more Scottish people to visit China as well.”
“China is such a big country with a rich history and beautiful scenery and has developed very rapidly in recent years.”
Scottish exports to China topped £2.5bn in the year to last September and Marketing Edinburgh chief executive John Donnelly said the air link would provide “great opportunities” for local and national firms.
He added: “It will be a huge benefit to the international companies headquartered in the city, the universities seeking to attract students from China, as well as the capital’s many businesses who cater for the tourist market.”
Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar added: “We have worked so hard over the past five years to build relationships with our partners in China and carefully make the case for Edinburgh and Scotland to be on their destinations list.
“It’s fitting that in this Year of the Dog, that we tenacious Scots have got our teeth into this opportunity. We won’t let go.”