Major ferry operator Stena Line, which offers routes between the UK and Ireland, has reached an agreement with the largest travel agency in China, Ctrip.
The result could be an increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Ireland, as they look to take advantage of the routes offered by Stena across the Irish Sea. Stena Line’s CEO, Niclas Mårtensson, said he expects to see 50,000 Chinese passengers utilising these routes by 2018.
“We are very excited about the cooperation with Ctrip and see this agreement as strategically important for Stena Line which will enable us to access a rapidly expanding market,” he said.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, explained how they have been strengthening ties between itself and China over the years and he welcomed Stena’s announcement. He added that Ireland’s own attractions – in addition to its proximity to Britain – make it an attractive destination for tourists from China.
“Stena Line has taken part in several of Tourism Ireland’s sales missions to China in recent years – so it’s really great to see the results of that hard work, including this new cooperation with Ctrip,” he said.
“Travel agents like Ctrip continue to play an important role in China, with travellers preferring to use a travel agent for a number of reasons, including convenience, language barriers, visa preparation and knowledge gaps.
“Tourism Ireland has a strong network in China, with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
“Our team in China is working hard to establish and build relationships with influential intermediaries, including key travel trade contacts like Ctrip – highlighting our natural attractions, cities, castles and proximity to GB.”
This autumn, the construction of four new flexible and fuel-efficient ferries – which are planned to be used on the Irish Sea routes – will start at the Chinese shipyard AVIC on behalf of Stena Line. They are expected to be delivered during 2019 and 2020.