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Airport opens new direct flights to Richmond's sister city Xiamen, China

Richmond councillor Chak Au touts benefits of 10,000 more Chinese tourists and local job creation
Craig Richmond, CEO of Vancouver International Airport, announced a fifth mainland-Chinese airline offering direct flights to Richmond on Tuesday. Photo Graeme Wood/Richmond News

Vancouver International Airport has strengthened its hold as the “preferred connecting hub” between Asia and the Americas, according to its CEO Craig Richmond, after he announced Tuesday that a fifth mainland-Chinese airline will soon service direct flights to Sea Island. 

The new three-flights-per-week link is expected to bring an estimated 10,000 additional Chinese tourists to the region, with many expected to stay and visit in Richmond. It will also add about 100 jobs at the airport, according to Richmond. 

The announcement was welcome news for Richmond city councillor Chak Au, who said the addition of Xiamen Airlines at YVR is “important to the air traffic business and also for trade and business in Richmond.”

Xiamen, a city of about 3.8 million people (metro) on the southern coast of China (Fujian Province), is, coincidently, one of Richmond’s four sister/friendship cities.

Au said he has visited China four times in the last three years, including several stops in Xiamen to discuss a direct route to Richmond with airline executives, as well as local politicians.

“I have always said that in Richmond we should focus our development not on real estate, but use our assets like the airport to build Richmond as an international trade hub.” said Au, noting his trips were not sanctioned by the City of Richmond and paid for by himself, as he blended leisure with work.

Au said the Chinese officials were at first hesitant to add the direct link, but were eventually convinced of the economic spinoffs.

“This is good for Richmond, for job creation. We can strengthen our relationship with Xiamen both in terms of market and investment,” said Au, touting a potential uptick in local high-tech and biomedical industries.

The non-stop flights will begin in July, said Richmond. “This is the first time Xiamen Airlines will offer service to North America,” he noted.

Xiamen is an important port city and a popular tourist destination with tree-lined beaches, added Richmond, who was joined by Richmond Centre MLA and B.C.’s Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and China’s Acting Consul General Fan Xiadong at the announcement in YVR’s international departures terminal.

“This new route will provide access to new markets for business and leisure for Canadians and Chinese people alike. It also offers great connections,” said Richmond.

If the tourism numbers pan out, the new flights could mean a boon for Tourism Richmond, which rakes in a two per cent tax on sanctioned hotel room stays.

According to Destination Canada, the federal government agency tasked to monitor and promote tourism, overnight trips to Canada from China increased every year between 2007-2014, as China shifted from Canada’s sixth largest source of overseas visitors in 2010 to its third in 2014.