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Chinese airline to start direct charter flights to Halifax next fall

Premier Stephen McNeil announces Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 that, in the early in the fall of 2020, Nova Scotia will welcome visitors from China on two direct charter flights.
Premier Stephen McNeil announces Thursday that in the early in the fall of 2020, Nova Scotia will welcome visitors from China on two direct charter flights. - Tim Krochak
HALIFAX, N.S. —

Tourists from China will be able to fly directly to Nova Scotia starting next fall. 

In an announcement Thursday morning. Premier Stephen McNeil said a direct charter flight from Guangzhou to Halifax will arrive in September and another in early October. 

Passengers will fly from Guangdong province’s capital with China Southern Airlines. 

McNeil credited the partnerships with Governor Ma Xingrui, China Southern Airlines and GZL International Travel Service for being critical to the venture. 

“We’ve been working on this now, it’s probably our third or fourth year when we started the conversation,” McNeil told reporters at a news conference in Halifax.  “A lot of details had to be worked out. The governor’s very supportive of the project. There were a number of hurdles we had to overcome and it seemed to come together at this time.”

Early next fall, tourists from China will be able to fly directly to Nova Scotia on two charter China Southern Airlines flights from Guangzhou to Halifax.  J.O.S.O. Photos/commons.wikimedia.org
Early next fall, tourists from China will be able to fly directly to Nova Scotia on two charter China Southern Airlines flights from Guangzhou to Halifax. J.O.S.O. Photos/commons.wikimedia.org

About 5,000 Chinese tourists visited Nova Scotia in 2018. The province’s target is to attract 50,000 Chinese visitors a year by 2024. 

On average, a visitor from China spends $2,850 in Canada. 

The China Southern Airlines planes will carry 271 passengers. They will have the option of buying travel packages through GZL, which is 60 per cent owned by the Chinese government. 

The packages are still being worked out but GZL representatives toured Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick in September to come up with possibilities. 

“We will have no issue with selling them (the seats) all,” McNeil said, adding that he hopes Newfoundland and Labrador can be added to itineraries in the future. 

On the return leg of each flight, Nova Scotia lobster will be shipped back to China. 

The long-term goal would be two flights every two weeks from May until October, the premier said. 

Nova Scotia’s expanding business relationship with the country presents a stark contrast to the frosty diplomatic relationship at the moment between Ottawa and China. The arrest of a Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou 10 months ago in Vancouver and the subsequent arrests of Canadians in China have sparked a travel advisory from the federal government. 

China also has come under fire for the mass detentions of its Muslim Uighur population

"We need to go in and demonstrate that if you want to change the culture of China, bring more Chinese people here."

- Premier Stephen McNeil

On Thursday McNeil reiterated past comments that Nova Scotia can’t impose its values on another country. 

“We need to go in and demonstrate that if you want to change the culture of China, bring more Chinese people here,” he said. “Let them see Atlantic Canada, let them see Canada. I believe the issue (protests) in Hong Kong is because those young people have seen a different type of democracy, they’ve seen a different type of government. That’s what going to have to drive the change if people are worried about the issues there.”

As for the security of Canadians visiting China, McNeil said he’s visited the country many times and always felt safe, and many Nova Scotian businesspeople regularly visit and have no problems. 

“If my children wanted to go, I’d be happy to send them to China,” he said, adding that  Guangzhou is “a very metropolitan part of China, it’s an extraordinary city.”

Peak tourism numbers across Nova Scotia were down five per cent in 2019 compared to the same point last season. Nova Scotia welcomed 1,247,200 overnight visitors between June and September 2019, according to the provincial numbers.

Tourism Nova Scotia CEO Michele Saran said Thursday that she believes Chinese visitation can help boost those numbers. 

Saran told reporters the number of Chinese visitors to Canada has seen double-digit growth in recent years. More than 737,000 high-spending Chinese travellers visited Canada in 2018. 

Saran she said she believes Nova Scotia could be the next hot spot. 

“We have something different, something they’re looking for, we’ve got the beautiful coastal regions, we’ve got the dark skies that they’re so fascinated with and lobster, lobster, lobster. They’re very excited about the product we have."

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