By Rich Thomaselli
LAS VEGAS – Nearly 2,000 Chinese tourists came to the U.S. last year to visit Mark Twain’s house.
Now, presumably, they had other business than just going to Hartford, Conn. – or at least more than just visiting the insurance capital of the country. Visiting New England or Cape Cod or even New York City would be on their agenda, one would assume.
The point is, China is a burgeoning market and United Airlines gets it.
United will begin using Boeing 787 widebodies to secondary markets in China in order to further develop tourism ties with the world’s most populous country, according to Vice Chairman And Chief Revenue Officer Jim Compton, who spoke on behalf of United today at the 20th annual Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
“So much of the demand growth out of China over the next five years is going to be from secondary cities,” Compton said, noting that most airlines traditionally serve Beijing and Shanghai.
United experimented, with great success, a route between San Francisco and Chengdu last year. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan Province in Southwest China, and is more than 1,200 miles from both Beijing and Shanghai. United was the first U.S. airline to service Chengdu.
United uses the 787-8 Dreamliner on the route, “the perfect aircraft to serve that developing market.”
According to the Obama administration, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the U.S. in 2013, generating more than $21 billion to the economy.
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