Direct flights between Hong Kong, Dublin could be ‘game changer’

Conference hears of potential for tourism and business from flights directly to territory

Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg

Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg

 

Direct flights between Dublin and Hong Kong could be a “game changer”, a conference in Dublin has heard.

The Consul General of Ireland in Hong Kong Peter Ryan said new routes by Cathay Pacific announced in August last year would open up significant regions in China to Ireland for tourism and business.

Speaking at a briefing organised by a think tank on Asia, Asia Matters, in conjunction with IBEC and Financial Services Ireland, Mr Ryan pointed out there were several major population centres close to Hong Kong, including Macau, Shenzhen and the Greater Bay Area economic hub, including nine cities in Guangdong province.

“In tourism, matters are moving along very quickly and the announcement of direct flights between Dublin and Hong Kong which commence in June is likely to be a game changer,” he said. “There are great tourism opportunities in the region, for inward tourism into Ireland, leaving aside exports in the agri-food sector and opportunities in financial services.”

He said the next challenge would be to increase the number of flights from four times a week to seven, and although Ireland was a small player, it could get results if agencies and organisations worked together and in tandem with the diaspora.

“Macau alone has 35m visitors a year. These are premium visitors from mainland China who are purchasing premium international products. There will be direct access from Hong Kong airlinks to Macau,” he said.

He said there were opportunities in the education and fianncial sector. The number of Chinese students involved in Ireland’s third level sector had grown eight-fold in recent years. Meanwhile, the Irish Funds Network was working closely in Hong Kong with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, building a platform to provide opportunities for Ireland’s financial services sector in the region. Mr Ryan said Hong Kong could be a centre for finance for the Chinese government’s investment in infrastructure and international transport networks.

Asia Matters executive director Martin Murray said Ireland was the second most competitive economy in the EU and the fastest growing in the euro zone, with a diverse, skilled workforce.

“Over 17 per cent of the workforce was born abroad and there has been inward migration from 180 countries in the 12 months to April 2016,” he said. “ That percentage figure has since increased. Additionally, there has been an almost 20 per cent increase in numbers speaking a foreign language between 2011 and 2016 censuses.”