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Thursday, December 8, 2016, 00:11

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

By Oswald Chan
SAR’s aviation hub status in line for a big push
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. (Roy Liu / China Daily)

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.

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