Hawaiian Airlines announces non-stop Honolulu to Beijing flight
“Whatever the Chinese get involved in, it's like a tsunami,” said Hawaii Chinese President Carol Tsai.
And Hawaii is hoping to ride that wave.
Hawaiian Airlines will launch its first non-stop flight to Taipei in July.
The airline will start its Honolulu-to-Beijing flight in April 2014.
“It's a challenge, but a challenge that we're meeting,” said Peter Ingram, who is Hawaiian Air’s chief commercial officer.
The airline has been pushing to find Mandarin speaking flight attendants.
Ingram said they hope to have two per flight. Staff will also be trained in Chinese culture.
“You've got a population of 1.2 billion in China, increasing wealth, a growing middle class and people able to travel for the first time,” he said.
Nearly 82,000 from China visited Hawaii in 2011.
About 16,000 came in 2012, which is a jump of 41.8 percent in a year.
Ingram said the next step is finding foreign speaking staff for the airport, in an effort to stay ahead of the game.
“We don't know how long this is going to last, but we hope it lasts a little longer,” said Tsai.
Experts say China is still a ways away from overtaking Japan in visitor numbers, but Chinese visitors are laying down the dough.
Tsai said one tour group visiting DFS in Waikiki plunked down more than a million dollars for watches.
“The Chinese tourists just want to shop. It's pretty much like when the Japanese tourism first started,” she said.
“This is a big opportunity we've been thinking about for a long time, not just for Hawaiian Airlines, but really, for the state,” said Ingram.
Hawaiian said they pursued Taipei first, after the State Department welcomed Taiwan last year into its Visa Waver Program, stimulating tourism.
Tsai said at U.S. embassies in China, staff doubled in 2013, at least, making the process move faster.
But Hawaiian has canceled its flight to the Philippines, because the airline said it wasn't performing well, even after the airlines reduced fares.
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