Massachusetts Welcomes China

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(Caption: Chinese visitors stand in front of the John Harvard statue in Cambridge.)
Photo by Maria Speridakos

There’s a new Silk Road coming through Massachusetts, thanks to the recent launch of Hainan Airlines’ direct air route between Boston and Beijing. Just as Marco Polo’s 14th century Silk Road opened up commerce and culture between the west and the east, this new connection between Massachusetts and China will similarly mark a new era of cooperation between two great destinations.

Flight 481 landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Friday, June 20, 2014, filled with Chinese visitors, airline officials and business travelers eager to experience first-hand the state’s cultural richness, shopping, educational institutions, scenic land and seascapes, and business opportunities. And later that afternoon, Flight 482 left Logan Airport, filled with American tourists, business travelers and Chinese students returning home for the summer.

During their stay in Boston, the Chinese visitors were greeted by Governor Deval Patrick and by officials from Massport, Massachusetts Office of Housing & Economic Development, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT), Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment and other agencies and companies that will help to develop tourism and trade partnerships in the future.

MOTT Director Betsy Wall noted that 100 million new Chinese tourists will be traveling in 2015, and Massachusetts wants to capture its share of this lucrative market.

MOTT, along with BrandUSA/China, took this opportunity to provide Hainan Airline officials with a familiarization tour of Greater Boston, with support from the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Cambridge Office of Tourism, and local hotels and restaurants.

The group toured downtown Boston and checked out Boston’s Seaport District and Innovation Center, before heading over to Cambridge, where Trademark Tours led them on a student-guided walk around Harvard University, followed by a tour of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus.

They also visited several iconic visitor destinations in greater Boston, including Fenway Park, Wrentham Village Premium Shopping Outlets in Wrentham, the Museum of Fine Arts, Copley Place, and Assembly Row in Somerville.

The Boston-Beijing route is the first non-stop flight between New England and Mainland China, and shaves off about six hours of time it used to take to get from city to city on connector flights. The Hainan schedule includes four nonstop flights a week in each direction, with daily flights being offered in the summer from July 18 through the end of August.

In addition to boosting international tourism, Massachusetts officials are also looking to expand commerce and trade as a result of the new Boston-Beijing route. China is currently the 2nd largest recipient of Massachusetts exports, accounting for $2 billion a year in local goods, according to Paula Murphy, director of the Massachusetts Export Center.

Another sector of potential growth lies in higher education. Massachusetts is currently the fourth largest host state for Chinese students, behind considerably larger states like California, Texas and Illinois. In 2013, there were 13,109 Chinese students studying in Massachusetts, and those numbers are likely to grow as China continues to familiarize itself with Massachusetts schools and all they have to offer.

The Boston-Beijing route is the fourth new international direct air flight coming out of Logan International Airport in the past year. In July 2013, Copa Airlines launched its Boston-Panama City service, followed in Emirates Airline’s Boston-Istanbul route in March 2014, and finally Turkish Airlines’ Boston-Istanbul route in May 2014.

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