SAR’s avi­a­tion hub sta­tus in line for a big push

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - DTABLE - By OSWALD CHAN in Hong Kong oswald@chi­nadai­

Hong Kong is per­fectly placed to­day as the ma­jor cen­ter for ren­minbi … the ba­sis of op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand the ren­minbi mar­ket, there is no limit.”

The Belt and Road (B&R) Ini­tia­tive would en­dow Hong Kong’s avi­a­tion sec­tor with vast op­por­tu­ni­ties that would help en­sure the city’s sta­tus as a ma­jor global avi­a­tion hub.

“The B&R Ini­tia­tive will fur­ther un­leash Hong Kong’s con­nec­tiv­ity role in trade, tourism, peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­change, im­port and ex­port of car­goes, as well as lo­gis­tics; and this will gen­er­ate fu­ture ben­e­fits for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Ivan Chu Kwok-le­ung told China Daily on the side­lines of the roundtable fo­rum.

Hong Kong is a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion hub, with more than 100 air­lines op­er­at­ing out of its air­port, and is also the world’s third-largest cargo trans­porta­tion hub. In­ter­na­tional visitor ar­rivals in the SAR are pro­jected to ex­ceed 70 mil­lion this year. A five-hour flight from Hong Kong can reach up to 48 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of the B&R economies.

The SAR’s flag­ship in­ter­na­tional car­rier is bank­ing on the lo­cal avi­a­tion sec­tor reap­ing the long-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits from the strate­gic na­tion-led ini­tia­tive. Cur­rently, the travel-and-tourism in­dus­tries ac­count for 8 per­cent of em­ploy­ment cre­ated in Hong Kong, with 5,000 jobs in the air­port area.

By 2024, Cathay Pa­cific will take de­liv­ery of more than 60 new air­craft cost­ing HK$180 bil­lion, which will bol­ster Hong Kong’s con­nec­tiv­ity role by en­hanc­ing the fre­quency of ser­vices, as well as flight des­ti­na­tions.

Since 2014, the car­rier has added seven new des­ti­na­tions — New York (Ne­wark), Manch­ester, Zurich, Bos­ton, Dus­sel­dorf, Madrid and Lon­don (Gatwick). Hav­ing dou­bled the num­ber of its Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions in the past two years, the com­pany cur­rently op­er­ates al­most 100 flights weekly to 10 Euro­pean cities.

From March next year, Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways will com­mence a four-times weekly ser­vice to Tel Aviv, the busi­ness cap­i­tal of Is­rael. Hope­fully, this will be up­graded to a daily ser­vice in a bid to boost eco­nomic con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween the Chi­nese main­land and the B&R des­ti­na­tions, as well as be­tween Asia Pa­cific coun­tries and des­ti­na­tions along the B&R routes.

“The flight to Tel Aviv from Hong Kong can link up the main­land with Is­raeli tech­nol­ogy, as there are trade and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties be­tween Is­rael and the main­land. In ad­di­tion, there are many Is­raeli in­vest­ment funds with as­sets on the main­land,” Chu said.

“The Hong Kong-Tel Aviv route can also com­ple­ment Is­rael’s role in the di­a­mond pro­cess­ing busi­ness, with Hong Kong’s role as ma­jor jewelry dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter,” he added.

Cathay Pa­cific is also con­tem­plat­ing launch­ing a di­rect pas­sen­ger ser­vice to Iran. How­ever, the plan could not be re­al­ized un­til Hong Kong and Iran have fi­nal­ized an avi­a­tion agree­ment.

“The B&R Ini­tia­tive will bring ben­e­fits to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, so that I hope young peo­ple can em­brace and en­gage them­selves in this vi­sion,” said Chu.

The au­di­ence lis­tens at­ten­tively to the dis­cus­sions among pan­elists at the China Daily Asia Lead­er­ship Roundtable Lun­cheon on Wed­nes­day. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of in­vest­ments along the Belt and Road routes is likely to bode well for Hong Kong — a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion hub.

Mark Tucker, group chief ex­ec­u­tive and pres­i­dent of AIA Group

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