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Flying to the promised land

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In the past few years WiC has repeatedly commented on the growing trade and investment ties between China and Israel. First there was the acquisition of local food giant Tnuva by Bright Food (see WiC240), then news of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s investments in Israeli tech firms (see WiC302), and then last January the debut Sino-Israeli investment summit held in Beijing (see WiC309). At this event an Israeli government official described the pair as “perfect partners – Israel is a little country which had to innovate to survive. If China brings the market, we can supply the talent.”

Recognising this state of affairs Cathay Pacific will launch a direct route between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv next week, with the inaugural flight on March 23. Jonathan Bailey, Cathay’s country manager for Israel, told WiC: “From a Cathay perspective, this burgeoning relationship between China and Israel was a key factor in launching the route. The One Belt One Road Initiative has sparked a lot of business between Israel and China, and the figures show that accumulated traffic between the two countries grew by 24% in 2016. There is a lot of Chinese investment in Israel and the top hotels here all have special packages and service standards set up for the increasing numbers of wealthy businessmen and women coming from the mainland. There is also significant traffic going the other way, with large Israeli business chambers visiting China on a regular basis for cooperation talks or further investment.”

Bailey says Cathay will operate the route using its new Airbus A350 aircraft, and will link from Hong Kong into 20 Chinese cities via sister airline Cathay Dragon. Aside from business travellers, Bailey notes there has been an increase in Chinese tourists to Israel, attracted by the historical sites.

Cathay will be banking on new routes like this proving a success as the airline has struggled over the past year from increased competition. On Wednesday it reported an unexpected net loss of HK$575 million ($74 million) for 2016 – its worst year since the 2008 financial crisis, and sharply down from a profit of HK$6 billion in 2015.


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