MANCHESTER, England – The Chinese boom town of Chengdu is preparing to welcome the international aviation industry this weekend for the 22nd annual World Routes forum (24-27 September).
World Routes moves to a different location every year to highlight different aviation markets. It is the only route development forum that brings together aviation professionals to discuss new air services on a global scale.
Rapid economic growth since the 1990s has transformed Chengdu into the largest city in western China with a population of over 1.4 million. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and home to 271 Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Intel and Microsoft. Chengdu’s GDP increased by 7.9 % in 2015 to 1.08 trillion Yuan which is 1.1% above the national average.
Chengdu was included in The New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2015” list and it is one of China’s top ten tourist destinations. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, ancient archaeological ruins, the remains of the Old City and many other attractions drew 2.3 million overseas visitors last year.
Economic success and a burgeoning tourism industry has led to high demand for air services. Between 2012 and 2015 Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport’s passenger numbers increased by 40% from 30 million to 42 million. During this time dozens of new international routes were launched to cities including Vancouver, Frankfurt, Doha, London, Melbourne, San Francisco, Moscow and Paris. Passenger numbers are expected to reach 47 million by the end of this year.
The wider context of China’s investment in aviation is crucial to Chengdu’s success. The government aims to create a one trillion yuan ($153.8 billion) aviation market by 2020 and a national construction programme will increase the number of Chinese airports to 260, one of which will be in Chengdu.
Chengdu Tianfu International Airport (currently under construction) will have the capacity to handle 40 million passengers when the first building phases are complete. It will make Chengdu the third largest aviation hub in China after Beijing and Shanghai when it opens in 2020.
Chengdu will also benefit from President Xi Jinping’s initiative to create a modern day Silk Road through improved international transport connections. The ‘One Road, One Belt’ strategy has identified Chengdu as an important hub to improve air services to western Asian, the Middle East and Europe.
The host of World Routes 2016, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, will show over 3,100 delegates from 230 airlines, 470 airports and 80 tourism authorities what the destination has to offer while making the case for new air services.
Most of the world’s major airlines will be present including Air Asia, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa and Qantas.
The latest challenges facing the aviation industry will be debated at the Strategy Summit conference. The high profile speakers include Peter Bellew, CEO of Malaysia Airlines; Hou Wei, vice president of Hainan Airlines and Benyamin Ismail, CEO of AirAsia X Berhad.
The Tourism Summit conference will explore how destinations can attract Chinese tourists and the changing nature of marketing.
Speakers include Shanzhong Zhu, executive director of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Professor Dr Wolfgang Arlt, director of China’s Outbound Tourism Research Institute and David Scowsill, president and CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council.
Adrian Newton, group director at UBM EMEA (the organiser of World Routes) said: “The airlines are increasingly looking east for future growth and no other country is currently investing in aviation like China. World Routes will provide a fantastic international platform to plan new air services across the globe.”
Mr Liwei, board chairman of Sichuan Province Airport Group Co Ltd said: “Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the largest international aviation hub in central-western China with significant potential for growth.
“We are looking forward to meeting senior decision makers from the airlines at World Routes to discuss global aviation and development strategy and share the achievement of cooperation and communication.”