A delegation from the Chinese city of Chengdu are visiting the UK next week on a sales mission to boost travel and business into the city.
A series of consumer, trade and media events will take place during the ‘Chengdu 72’ week from Monday to promote the 72-hour visa-free scheme to the city.
It comes as British Airways prepares to increase its flights from Heathrow to the city from three a week to five.
The Heathrow Express will be rebranded to the Chengdu 72 Express during the promotional period with a photo exhibition taking place at Terminal 5. In addition a Chengdu pop-up teahouse will be in Covent Garden from 22-25 May and those who tweet pictures of Chengdu Pandas around the city will be entered into a draw to win a holiday.
Promotion will focus on the city as a gateway to the Sichuan region and as the home of the Giant Panda.
“Many British people know Chengdu as the home of the Giant Panda but they don’t know that the vibrant city of Chengdu is one of the best places to experience China as it is home to a number of world natural and cultural heritage sites, as well as a very attractive business destination,” said said Li Li, deputy director general of Chengdu Municipal Foreign Affairs Office. “With increased flights between London and Chengdu, we are seeing ever closer links between the cities. Rebranding the Heathrow Express to the Chengdu Express for 72 hours will help highlight how easy it is for Chinese visitors to London to get into central London from Heathrow.”
UK visits to China returned back to 2008 levels in 2011 when 343,000 Brits visited the country although this dropped slightly in 2012 to 334,000.