Ireland is keen to expand the number of flights between Hong Kong and Dublin this summer, with the aim of attracting more Chinese tourists, Michael D’Arcy, minister of state of the Republic of Ireland’s Finance Department, said in an interview.
The Cathay Pacific service to Dublin that started in June 2018 runs four times a week, and D’Arcy is negotiating for an expansion to five or six flights a week. The Hong Kong service is the first between an Asian city and Dublin, followed by Beijing, and has contributed to an expansion in trade and tourism.
“The direct flight between Dublin and Hong Kong … is providing an instant boost to a number of sectors, especially tourism and seafood exports,” said D’Arcy. According to the minister, an increase in the number of flights will help in bringing more of the 100 million residents of southern China to Ireland.
“Ireland is a big country with only 4.8 million people. We have the space and facilities to meet with many more tourists,” he said, adding that his country did not share concerns about too many tourist arrivals expressed by some European nations.
According to financial services company CLSA, mainland China tourists are expected to make 200 million foreign trips annually by 2020. And while they currently flock to destinations such as Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea and Japan, D’Arcy said Ireland was rising in popularity.
About 130,000 Chinese tourists visited Ireland, where scenes from the Star Wars movies as well as HBO’s Game of Thrones television series have been filmed, in 2018. This represents an increase of 43 per cent from 90,000 Chinese visitors in 2017, itself an increase of 45 per cent over the previous year, according to Republic of Ireland government data.
I would expect visitor numbers to increase in both directions Michael D’Arcy, minister of state, Finance Department, Republic of Ireland
“I would expect visitor numbers to increase in both directions, as we now have direct flights from Hong Kong and Beijing to Dublin, and the British-Irish Visa Scheme makes it easier for Chinese visitors to come here and visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa,” said D’Arcy.
Ireland was also the first country to sign a Working Holiday Agreement with Hong Kong in 2005. Under this scheme, young Hongkongers can apply for Working Holiday Authorisation in Ireland, and vice versa.
An increase in direct flights is also expected to bring in more cargo and boost trade. Mainland China is Ireland’s biggest trade partner, and in 2017, the trade in goods and services stood at €16.2 billion (US$18.47 billion). This represents an increase of more than 32 per cent when compared with €12.06 billion in 2016.
D’Arcy said Brexit would benefit Ireland, which has attracted financial firms and fund companies to set up office there. Several major banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Ping An (Insurance) Group, have set up offices in Ireland.
Hong Kong property tycoon Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison also owns Accipiter, a major aviation leasing firm, in Ireland. Hong Kong-based conglomerate NWS Holdings owns Goshawks aviation leasing in Dublin, which has 90 aircraft and assets worth about US$4.3 billion.