East region seeks direct air links with China to boost economic growth

From left, Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council; John Keddie, chairman Harlow Enterp

From left, Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council; John Keddie, chairman Harlow Enterprise Zone; Ken OToole, chief executive of Stansted Airport; Rhys Whalley, executive director Manchester-China Forum Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT - Credit: Stansted Airport

The East of England’s business and political leaders are aiming to secure direct air links with China as they target economic growth.

Inaugural meeting of the East of England-China Forum Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT

Inaugural meeting of the East of England-China Forum Picture: STANSTED AIRPORT - Credit: Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport representatives, business leaders and local politicians have begun talks on creating a new partnership between the region and China to help secure the air link and foster new trade and investment opportunities in the East of England.

The East of England-China Forum will be membership-based and open to all companies and organisations wanting to strengthen ties between the region and China.

It wants to stimulate inward investment, tourism spend, student numbers and export opportunities with China, which last year accounted for 30% of all global economic growth.

In 2016, the combined value of imports and exports between the East of England and China was valued at £4.3bn.

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Stansted Airport chief executive Ken O’Toole said was “significant” demand for Chinese destinations, and the airport was confident it could secure new links.

“In the next few years China is expected to overtake the USA to become the biggest aviation market in the world and together with a relaxation of visa and flight restrictions for Chinese visitors, now is the time for the region to come together to secure new direct links between our region and China,” he said.

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“It is crucial we build a strong coalition of businesses, universities, tourism agencies and local Government to demonstrate the size of the opportunity to airlines.”

Essex County Council’s deputy leader Councillor Kevin Bentley said: “A new direct air link to China from Stansted will significantly boost the Essex and regional economies and we are delighted to be contributing the resources of Essex County Council’s specialist China business advisory team at Essex International to help in the creation of the East of England-China Business Forum.”

Scott Goodfellow, director of Tiptree-based Wilkin and Sons said: “Securing a direct link to China from Stansted, our local airport, would support our export ambitions, encourage local tourism, and save valuable time commuting around the M25.”

A similar coalition has already proved successful in Manchester.

Stansted Airport said a partnership between Manchester Airport, local Government, tourism agencies, universities and the business community helped to secure direct links to both Hong Kong and Beijing in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The Beijing route alone helped exports from the north of England to China increase by 260% to £200m a month while Chinese visitors to the north increased by more than 50%.

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