China Southern, China's largest airline company, has officially announced their decision to return to Turkey, while a second airline, Hainan Airlines, is also preparing to resume flights between China and Turkey.
Thanks to cooperation between the Istanbul Governorate, Turkish Airlines (THY) and Turkish Tourism Investors Association (TTYD) under the initiative of Turkish Hoteliers Association (TÜROB), China Southern, China's largest airline company which suspended flights to Turkey in 2016, has decided to return to the country. The company, which will conduct the first flight on Dec. 20, will offer three flights between Beijing and Istanbul on a weekly basis.
While contacts with other Chinese air carriers continue, they are expected to soon announce their plans for Turkey. Hainan Airlines is also preparing to start flights between China and Turkey.
Some time ago, a delegation consisting of high-level officers of TÜROB, Istanbul Governorate, THY and TTYD visited China to hold talks with Chinese airline companies to increase the number of flights to Turkey. The contacts in question continue on various platforms in the two countries.
Speaking on the issue, TÜROB Chairman Timur Bayındır stated that they are greatly pleased by China Southern's decision to resume flights to Turkey. Underscoring that the meetings are result-oriented, Bayındır pointed out that Chinese companies have started to announce decisions to conduct flights to Turkey. He also noted that the resumption of flights by Chinese companies will create a positive perception of Turkey in China, adding, "Despite the fact that the Beijing-Istanbul line was the most lucrative line in all international flights in 2015 and 2016, China Southern halted flights to Istanbul. During our latest meetings, they accepted our proposal to re-start flights and they announced a relevant decision. The number of weekly flights conducted by THY between the two countries is limited to 34. THY carries out some of these flights as part of a code share agreement with China Airlines, however, Chinese airline companies do not have direct flights to our country."
Reiterating that the most important obstacle to achieving the goal of attracting 1 million Chinese tourists a year, which is a long-standing objective of Turkey, is the inadequacy of transport facilities, Bayındır noted that the increase in flights between the two countries will lead to a significant upsurge in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Turkey. Underlining that the political atmosphere between the two countries is positive and relations are good, he said that Chinese tourists are taking a greater interest in Turkey. According to Bayındır, there are important developments such as the e-visa facilitation that Turkey has offered to Chinese nationals, China's declaration of 2018 as "Turkey Tourism Year" and China's objective to revive the historic Silk Road.
While Turkey saw the number of foreign visitors coming to the country increase by nearly 25 percent from January to July this year to 21.64 million, compared to 17.3 million in the same period last year, the number of tourists coming from China also reached significant figures. Around 225,000 Chinese visited Turkey in the first seven months of this year - an 88.77 percent year-on-year increase.