Twice weekly flights will bring thousands of Chinese tourists across the summer after a deal was struck with Hainan Airlines.
A programme of charter flights from Beijing will take place from July 3 to August 28 as part of an agreement announced by Culture Secretary Sajid Javid in China today.
The flights will deliver an expected £19 million boost to the regional economy, with wealthy Chinese tourists let loose on the region’s shops and tourist attractions.
It is a step in the direction of scheduled flights to China from the city, which were a major factor in the £40 million runway extension completed last year.
Meanwhile, Birmingham Airport also unveiled its new Chinese branding – Birmingham Airport, Shakespeare’s Airport – at the event.
Jo Lloyd, Birmingham Airport’s commercial director, said: “We are honoured to be able to once again host the UK’s only direct charter flights from Beijing this summer and look forward to welcoming the thousands of Chinese passengers arriving twice weekly into the Midlands during the summer.
“Not only is this a significant market test, it paves the way for future sustainable scheduled flights into Birmingham from China that will support the growth in Chinese visitors as well as the region’s economy. We are also hopeful that flight programmes will include departures from Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as Beijing to Birmingham in the future.”
Hainan will operate twice weekly flights on a Boeing 767-300 aircraft, with 223 seats – 32 in the business cabin and 191 in economy.
Recent Office for National Statistics data shows that overseas visitor numbers to the region have increased by one-third, specifically from China where visitor numbers have more than doubled.
It is hoped attractions like Grand Central, the redeveloped Mailbox and particularly Resorts World on the NEC complex will act as a draw to tourists from the Far East.
The deal was announced at a special event hosted by Birmingham Airport and Visit Britain at The GREAT Festival in Shanghai.
The festival in Shanghai is being led by the Duke of Cambridge Prince William, Trade Minister Lord Livingston and the culture secretary.
Mr Javid said: “There’s so much more to the UK than London, so it’s great that this new route will let Chinese visitors fly direct to the heart of England this summer. Improving international connections is a key part of our long-term economic plan, and a regular flight between China’s capital and Britain’s second city will boost the tourist industry and help forge links between businesses in both countries.”
The airport is using the GREAT Festival, which is taking place between March 2 and 5, to develop its new Chinese brand, focused around William Shakespeare.
It will be used in China to promote Birmingham as a gateway into the region which is home to many great places of interest to Chinese visitors, such as Stratford upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare.
Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain said: “These new charter flights will help us achieve our target of £1 billion Chinese visitor spend within five years – that’s over double the current annual level.
“China is a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. Our current share is small in volume but high in value. Chinese visitors already stay longer here than in our European competitor destinations and are high spenders – every 22 additional Chinese visitors we attract supports an additional job in tourism.”
Also present at the launch event in Shanghai were representatives from the Birmingham business community including Aston Villa, Shanghai Automotive, Wragge & Co, Birmingham University and NVC Lighting.