Route of the matter – World Routes 201618 July 2016
World Routes is a unique event that moves from city to city every year to highlight different international aviation markets. It is the only route development forum that brings together aviation professionals to discuss new air services on a global scale. This year’s edition is taking place in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, 24–27 September.
Chengdu in China’s Sichuan Province is the destination for World Routes 2016. Around 3,000 delegates from airlines, airports, governments and tourism authorities are expected to attend 13,000 meetings during the four-day event in September that will shape the future direction of the industry.
Known as the ‘Land of Abundance’ since ancient times, Chengdu’s mild climate and fertile soil have made it one of China’s primary sources of food production. The region is most famous for being the home of the giant panda, but there is more to Chengdu than these lovable animals: incredible mountains, rivers, forests, historical sites and spicy food have put the city firmly on the map.
A modern industry, a modern city
Chengdu may have been founded over 2,000 years ago, but it has become a thoroughly modern city as a result of China’s economic boom. As the most developed city in western China and one of the fastest-developing cities in the world, Chengdu’s GDP increased by 7.3% in 2015 to over 1.08 trillion yuan – 1.1% higher than the national average. Tax and investment incentives for foreign firms, low labour costs and high-growth markets have made Chengdu a centre for foreign investment, and home to over 270 Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Intel and Microsoft.
The dynamic economy and influx of the world’s most profitable companies has created a significant increase in demand for business travel. World Routes 2016 host Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is mainland China’s fourth-busiest aviation hub, serving 50 international destinations. Last year, the airport handled 42 million passengers, and this number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
The national Chinese aviation market is the second-largest in the world, behind the US, and is continuing to grow. IATA predicts that it will have become the busiest market by 2034, with 1.196 billion passengers a year. Chinese airlines carried 440 million passengers last year, which was an 11% increase from 2014.
There are plans to build 66 new airports over the next five years to accommodate this rapid growth, one of which will be in Chengdu. When Chengdu Tianfu International Airport opens in 2019, the city’s capacity will grow to more than 62 million passengers a year, offering huge development potential for the aviation industry.
The Chinese Government also aims to increase the number of international air routes to meet the demand for travel. Chengdu is planning to gain at least three direct international routes a year over the next five years, and World Routes will help it to achieve this aim.
Huang Ping, minister of the Chengdu Municipal Government, says: “Hosting World Routes in Chengdu gives us the opportunity to demonstrate, on a global stage, our success in building a national aviation hub serving international and domestic airlines. New routes to coastal China, as well as the rest of the world, mean Chengdu is now firmly established as western China’s centre of commerce.”
Chengdu is therefore a lucrative prospect for delegates of World Routes 2016. Some of the world’s biggest airlines have already registered for the event, including Air China, American Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Japan Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Around 300 airlines in total are expected to attend, along with 700 airports and 130 tourism authorities.
The city’s experience of hosting a previous Routes event will also strengthen its position: Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport was the venue for the smaller Routes Asia forum in 2012, which undoubtedly contributed to the rapid expansion of the city’s air network. The success of the regional Asian event led to the decision to bid for World Routes to allow Chengdu to compete for air services on an international level.
Senior industry leaders attend World Routes, and delegates will hear them discuss the latest issues and trends at the Strategy Summit. The speakers will include Peter Bellew, chief operations officer at Malaysia Airlines; Neil Chernoff, senior vice-president of network planning and alliances at Iberia; and Hou Wei, vice-president of Hainan Airlines.
One of the reasons behind World Routes’ two decades’ worth of enduring success is the care the organisers take to choose the best locations. Delegates enjoy having time out from their busy meeting schedules to see the local attractions.
Tours are a feature of every event, and this also helps the hosts to bolster their case for new air services. A trip to Chengdu wouldn’t be complete without seeing the city’s famous giant pandas. Delegates can book a tour of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding – founded in 1987 with the express aim of bringing the iconic animals back from the brink of extinction. Since then, 214 cubs have been born, and the base has become one of western China’s most popular tourist spots.
Tours of the ancient town of Anren, which dates from AD620; the Jinsha archaeological site; Broad and Narrow Alley, the remains of historical Chengdu City; Chengdu People’s Park; Mt Emei; and the Leshan Giant Buddha, a 233ft statue carved into a cliff face during the Tang Dynasty, are also available.
Ping adds: “In addition to its advancing transport, technology, manufacturing and finance sectors, Chengdu has some of the richest tourism resources in the world. We look forward to welcoming World Routes delegates and guests to experience Chengdu’s history, culture and renowned Sichuan cuisine.” ?
More information about World Routes can be found at www.routesonline.com.