First di­rect flight links Las Ve­gas, Chi­nese main­land

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS | MARKETS - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­

A new di­rect flight be­tween Las Ve­gas and Beijing was launched on Fri­day, link­ing the “en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal of the world” with the Chi­nese main­land for the first time.

The ser­vice will be op­er­ated by Hainan Air­lines, em­ploy­ing a Boe­ing 787-9 Dream­liner jet. It will make the trip three times a week, on Mon­days, Wed­nes­days and Fri­days.

The flights de­part McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Las Ve­gas at 1:10 pm Pa­cific time and ar­rive at Beijing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port at 6:10 pm the sub­se­quent day.

The re­turn flights de­part Beijing at 2:40 pm and ar­rive in Las Ve­gas at 10:50 am the same day. Fly­ing times are ap­prox­i­mately 13 hours west­bound and 12 hours east­bound.

While Hou Wei, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Hainan Air­lines, said they “made his­tory”, Las Ve­gas tourism of­fi­cials con­sid­ered the non­stop route from Beijing as “long awaited” for more than 10 years, as Chi­nese trav­el­ers are one of the fastest­grow­ing and largest-spend­ing groups of in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to Las Ve­gas.

Pre­vi­ously, trav­el­ers be­tween the two points had to con­nect via a third US or Asian city. The new route cuts hours off the pre­vi­ous travel time. It is ex­pected to in­tro­duce mil­lions of prospec­tive vis­i­tors to Las Ve­gas and gen­er­ate an es­ti­mated $33.5 mil­lion an­nu­ally in di­rect vis­i­tor-spend­ing for South­ern Ne­vada.

“The in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­place is the key to our suc­cess in the fu­ture from the leisure side as well as from the con­ven­tion-meet­ing side,” said Rossi Ralenkot­ter, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Author­ity. “We know that the growth mar­ket in the fu­ture is go­ing to in­clude China.”

The US Com­merce De­part­ment projects that nearly 100 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors will travel to the US by 2021. “We know China is go­ing to al­low us to do that,” he added.

The new flight will bring more vis­its from not only Beijing but also other cities in the fu­ture, which is crit­i­cal, said Ralenkot­ter.

Las Ve­gas launched the “China Ready” pro­gram last year with the ho­tel in­dus­try and McCar­ran Air­port to pre­pare for Chi­nese vis­i­tors. The air­port is now equipped with Man­darin sig­nage, Chi­ne­ses­peak­ing am­bas­sadors to wel­come pas­sen­gers and help them to nav­i­gate, as well as a WeChat pres­ence.

The Las Ve­gas-Beijing flight will drive cultural and busi­ness ex­changes be­tween the US and China, Luo Lin­quan, Chi­nese con­sul gen­eral in San Fran­cisco, said at a news con­fer­ence for the flight launch in Las Ve­gas on Fri­day.

“It is well known Las Ve­gas is a city of tourism, a city of con­ven­tions, at­tract­ing nearly 200,000 Chi­nese vis­i­tors ev­ery year. Las Ve­gas is one of the fa­vorite Chi­nese busi­ness travel des­ti­na­tions in the US, and Beijing is China’s cultural and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion heart,” he said. “The two cities are com­ple­men­tary economies with big po­ten­tial for co­op­er­a­tion.”

The new air route marks Hainan Air­lines’ 10th des­ti­na­tion in North Amer­ica since Beijing-Seat­tle ser­vice was launched in 2008.

“Las Ve­gas has be­come a ma­jor draw for Chi­nese tourists in re­cent years. Its im­age has changed from casi­nos alone to con­ven­tions, en­ter­tain­ment and sight­see­ing,” said Hou. “The new ser­vice fur­ther com­ple­ments our in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal net­work.”

The air­line’s goal is to make the flight a daily ser­vice, but it is sub­ject to the quota from China’s avi­a­tion author­ity, according to Hou.

Las Ve­gas is one of the fa­vorite Chi­nese busi­ness travel des­ti­na­tions in the US.” Luo Lin­quan, Chi­nese con­sul gen­eral in San Fran­cisco


A pedes­trian walks past a sign for the Hong Kong and Shang­hai Bank­ing Cor­po­ra­tion bank in Hong Kong.

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