A major initiative has been launched to drive a direct link from Stansted Airport to China and bring extra Chinese investment and trade opportunities to the East of England.
Airport representatives, business and political leaders and members of academia have started talks and formed a new brains trust designed to stimulate increased inward investment, tourism spend, student numbers and export opportunities.
The East of England-China Forum is membership-based and open to all companies and organisations wanting to strengthen ties between the region and China.
Last year, China accounted for 30 per cent of all global economic growth and the country’s sustained expansion has created a surge in UK bound tourism and investment as well as increased demand for British education, research capabilities, goods and services. In 2016, the combined value of imports and exports between the East of England and China was valued at £4.3 billion.
At the inaugural meeting of the Forum, representatives from East of England and London businesses, business groups, County Councils, East of England Local Government Association, tourism agencies and universities agreed to build on their relationships in China but also provide a focus for organisations looking to increase their connectivity with China, and to encourage more businesses to explore opportunities in China.
The Forum will also leverage local and national assets in order to develop these areas.
Ken O’Toole, chief executive of London Stansted Airport said: “As China becomes an increasingly important force in 21st century global trade, it is of paramount importance that the East of England, plus north and east London, has in place a clear strategy that allows it to nurture long-term economic ties with the country.
“In the next few years China is expected to overtake the US 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.
“We know there is significant demand for Chinese destinations and are confident we can secure new links over the next years but 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.”
Claire Ruskin, chief executive of the Cambridge Network added: “Nearly five per cent of the population in Cambridge is Chinese and we have considerable activity between businesses and institutions in this region and across China already. Direct links from Stansted will encourage even more productive relationships.”
A similar coalition has already proved successful in Manchester, where 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 per cent to £200 million per month while Chinese visitors to the north increased by more than 50 per cent.
• Those wanting to join the Forum’s networking database and receive news and event information can email details to eastchinaforum [at] stanstedairport.com