Chinese Investment Firm Eyes New Nonstop Weekly Shanghai-Honolulu Route
By Sonia Isotov
The private-sector Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA) is working with a Shanghai-based investment company and a new Chinese airline carrier to bring three scheduled weekly nonstop flights direct from Shanghai to Honolulu.
The financial investor, who does not yet want to be identified, will be in Hawaii at the end of February and hopes to meet with tourism officials and possibly Governor Abercrombie.
Juergen T. Steinmetz, President of the Hawaii Tourism Association said: “The tourism industry in China is the fastest-growing industry in the world and still only in its infancy. There are more millionaires produced in China every year than any other country in the world. 95% of these new millionaires that love to travel opt to go to destinations that are ‘China friendly’ and offer nonstop flights without having to change planes in an unknown third country. The younger Chinese are more adventurous. They will endure longer flights and change planes, and they are open to exploring unknown territories, but will be spending less money. The older wealthy Chinese, however, are more reserved. They can afford to spend US$2,000 a day while vacationing, and they want to travel in style and comfort to a destination that understands their cultural desires and language.”
“The target is to have the three weekly flights operational sometime in 2012 in a three-class format of First Class, Business Class, and Deluxe Economy. The service level must be top-notch in order to attract this market, according to the China-based investor. The investor’s vision is to begin operations using two Boeing 767/300 aircraft that would be serviced at Shanghai PVG airport at a special VIP Aloha section only for these Hawaii flights. He sees a possible expansion to service Beijing-Honolulu sometime after a successful launch of the Shanghai route. His vision is to also have passengers serviced in a special VIP area in Honolulu with staff that speaks and understands the needs of these affluent Chinese travelers,” Steinmetz added.
The airline plans to work directly with Hawaii hotels, restaurants, and the “high-end” retail community to help guide their staff in accommodating these wealthy, new Chinese visitors to Hawaii. According to the investor, investments and joint ventures may be possible, stating, “We would begin with an investor fund from Hong Kong, and issue an IPO after 5 years in order to give our original investors the first opportunity to invest in the airline they use to reach Hawaii, with an exit strategy for their investment.”
The investor also said, “Even though my organization has the resources to cover all the costs on the Chinese side, we are counting on the State of Hawaii and Governor Abercrombie to support our project in Hawaii.”
Steinmetz also noted, “The key to the entire project will be fulfilling US federal and Chinese licensing requirements. The investor is a specialist in Chinese-American trade relations and is well-known to the US Consulate in Shanghai. He has been involved in several large projects, and his company understands the importance of addressing cultural differences. His company is Chinese-owned, but the CEO is an American. The investor is aware of the challenges Hawaii had with Hainan Airlines, and he never thought the program would work. He was correct, as these promised flights never got off the ground. He said from his perspective, China would not immediately look for another major carrier to grant traffic rights to, but would be more inclined to look favorably upon a specialty Chinese-owned airline serving only the Hawaiian market. He believes it essential for Governor Abercrombie to visit China and make a plea for this project to the Chinese government officials, and he indicated that the investor’s company would facilitate and arrange such a meeting.
The investor was concerned about the negative press received in Shanghai after the recent charter flight that arrived in Honolulu from China. These first-time Chinese travelers did not receive US immigration forms on board, and upon arrival in Honolulu, Chinese language forms were not available. It took hours for these visitors to clear customs, and the story broke on every major news outlet in Shanghai – sending out the wrong message about travel to Hawaii.
This investor has been following HiTA’s effort to introduce emerging markets to Hawaii and recently officially joined HiTA as a member. HiTA is currently arranging meetings for the investor, and Thomas Steinmetz said, “Anyone who wants to be part of this project from the beginning may join the Hawaii Tourism Association at www.hawaiitourismassociation.com, email [email protected] or call +1-808-566-9900 (Oahu).”