VisitBritain and Hainan Airlines Group sign MoU to boost numbers of Chinese visitors to Britain

Britain’s national tourism body VisitBritain has today (May 18) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hainan Airlines Group, part of HNA Group Co. Ltd*, to mark the start of a partnership to attract more Chinese visitors to Britain.

The MoU was signed in the presence of the UK’s Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, who was in Beijing attending a global tourism summit, and HNA Group Co Ltd.  

The MoU, which was officially signed today by VisitBritain Chairman Christopher Rodrigues and Vice Chairman and CEO of HNA Tourism Group Tie LI, signals the intent for the two organisations to develop a marketing partnership to encourage more visitors from China to visit Britain through the group’s existing regional routes, and to support new route development. This could involve joint marketing campaigns and sharing market intelligence and customer insights, to convert the aspiration of Chinese people to visit Britain into bookings.

UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said:

 “Hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists visit Britain every year, thanks to our unique mixture of historic architecture, world-class museums and thriving cities.

 “More Chinese visitors coming to the UK is great news for the tourism industry and our economy, and this agreement will make it even easier for tourists to come and enjoy the very best that our country has to offer.”

VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said:                                                                                 

“China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain, and we want to deliver a world-class visitor experience for Chinese customers. Making it easier to travel to Britain through increasing route connectivity and seat-capacity is a crucial part of our competitive tourism offer, so we are very pleased to be signing this MoU with HNA Group Co. Ltd. Working together we can target our marketing to inspire more Chinese visitors to come and explore regional Britain, and to deliver our ambitious plans for growth for this rapidly expanding market.”

Chairman of the Board of HNA Group, Feng CHEN, said:

There are huge tourism opportunities in Britain for attracting Chinese visitors to visit Britain. Consequently, multiple airlines under Hainan Airlines Group are launching several routes between China and Britain, offering airline and travel products with better quality and lower prices, and bridging between the two countries as well. Hainan Airlines Group shall work with VisitBritain to boost more Chinese visitors to Britain, who enjoy its natural beauty and British style.”

Latest figures from VisitBritain show that visits from China were up 37% in the first nine months of 2015, smashing previous records. Chinese visitors are some of the UK’s highest spending, they also stay longer and travel more widely across Britain than other international visitors. VisitBritain has ambitions to double spend from Chinese visitors to £1 billion by 2020.

HNA Group Co Ltd’s carriers include Hainan Airlines, which is launching a new direct route from Beijing to Manchester in north England from June. This new route, offering up to four direct flights per week, will make it easier for Chinese visitors to explore the UK’s northern regions.  The Group also operates Tianjin Airlines, which is launching the UK's first direct flights from London’s Gatwick Airport to Chongqing in June. Twice weekly, year round flights will continue to China's fourth largest city, Tianjin. Tianjin Airlines boasts onward connections to more than 100 Chinese cities.

It is estimated that more than 92,000 Chinese visitors will be using flights with HNA Group Co Ltd’s carriers in the coming 12 months, contributing more than £230 million to the British economy.

Chinese perceptions of the UK as a travel destination are increasingly positive; however, tourism is a competitive global industry and VisitBritain is working hard to position Britain as the destination of choice for Chinese visitors through its GREAT China Welcome Programme, international GREAT marketing campaigns and annual trade events to China. Its ‘GREAT names for GREAT Britain’ campaign was seen by 300 million people and won multiple awards. A similar number saw last year’s ‘Enjoy the GREAT fun times in Britain’ campaign.



  • There were 214,000 visits from China from January to September, beating the number of visits for all of 2014, with figures for the last quarter of 2015 still to come. Spend was up 4% over the same period, to £435 million.
  • Inbound tourism is worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy.

*HNA Group Co Ltd

  • The group owns both domestic airlines and international airlines, including Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Aigle Azur and Ghana AWA
  • Hainan Airlines Travel is the only whole industry chain travel group integrating airlines, tourism, accommodations, finances and internet. It is the top five travel group in China. Beijing Capital Airlines under the group boasts over 60 aircrafts and over 30 international routes. Meanwhile, the group also covers the leading outbound travel agency CAISSA Touristic, which has over 200 branches, providing more than 8000 premium tourism offerings. The group also owns Deer Jet, the world-class business jet company with nearly 80 business jets. Meanwhile, the group owns and manages over 450 hotels inside and outside of China.