While Europe and North America have slowly and surely built up their appeal to Chinese tourists, one developed nation has been experiencing a veritable Chinese travel boom: Japan. Still, despite attracting an astounding 7.35 million Chinese tourists in 2017, Japan’s tourism industry has been somewhat constrained by the lack of a comprehensive Sino-Japanese airline partnership. Fortunately, that is set to change with the recently announced joint-venture agreement between Japan Airlines (JAL) and China Eastern.
JAL and China Eastern Airlines will enter into the first joint venture between a Japanese and a Chinese airlines
The deal will still have to be approved by anti-trust regulators in China and Japan and is currently set to start in April. However, if the JAL and China Eastern partnership goes through, it will allow the two airlines to better coordinate flights and sales. Most importantly, it will allow the two airlines to consider each others flights as their own. China Eastern will be able to include JAL flights in their own itineraries and vice versa.
This agreement will likely have little impact on routes that both airlines already travel frequently, like routes between the China Eastern hub of Shanghai and the JAL hub of Tokyo. However, when connecting to smaller hubs throughout Japan and China, the two airlines could instead utilize each other’s routes.
The move will make Japan more accessible to Chinese tourists than ever before
It’s hard not to notice that the main beneficiary of this move will ultimately be Chinese tourists. While the vast majority of Chinese tourists are likely looking to travel to major destinations like Tokyo and Osaka, the 7 million plus and growing number of Chinese tourists are undoubtedly looking for more unique destinations within Japan. This deal will make those cities more accessible for Chinese tourists than ever before.
It will also increase the access of Chinese tourists to Japan that hail from cities far away from the major Chinese hubs of Shanghai, Beijing, etc. All in all, it seems like a huge win for Japan as a destination and for both JAL and China Eastern.
For China as a destination, the deal can’t hurt. The Chinese government has been keen on increasing the robustness of its inbound tourism industry. Deals like this could help, but connectivity between China and source markets isn’t the main issue that China’s tourism industry is facing in regards to inbound tourism.
According to Ctrip co-founder and Chairman James Liang, the key to developing China’s appeal as an international tourist destination lies in liberalizing the country’s visa policy, reducing pollution, and enhancing cultural tourism offerings.