Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino announced Wednesday the launch of three new direct flights linking the Italian capital with the Chinese cities of Chengdu, Shenzhen and Hangzhou starting from the end of May.
The new routes to Chengdu and Shenzhen will be operated by Chinese companies Sichuan Airlines and Hainan Airlines, with three and two weekly direct flights, respectively.
From June 25, Sichuan Airlines will be operating a new Italy-China connection with a direct flight to Chengdu three times a week, while Hainan Airlines will open up a direct flight to Shenzhen, which will operate twice weekly starting from May 30.
The Rome-Chengdu direct route is the first of its kind between the two cities and marks Sichuan Airlines' very first entry into the Italian market. Hainan Airlines' two new weekly direct flights to Shenzhen will add to the already existing three weekly flights with a stopover in Wuhan in central China.
A new direct route three times a week linking Rome with Hangzhou in China is to be launched on June 12, operated by Air China.
"Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Hangzhou - and the new company, Sichuan Airlines, along with the increase of the daily offer of flights to other Chinese destinations - are the new additions that are thrusting Leonardo da Vinci (Airport) toward new records once again this year," said Fausto Palombelli, chief commercial officer of Aeroporti di Roma (ADR),the company that runs the airport.
The launch of the three new direct air routes is part of Fiumicino Airport's broader China-oriented policy, which includes 12 direct connections to China; Chinese-language signs and information; Personal Shopper service offered in Mandarin; and WeChat Pay, UnionPay, and Alipay availability, among others.
Thanks to its efforts to attract more visitors from China, Fiumicino Airport received some 760,000 Chinese tourists last year, an increase of 60 percent compared to 2014. The airport expects to see a further 20 percent growth in traffic to and from China in 2019 compared to the previous year, exceeding 900,000 passengers by the end of the year, according to a statement issued by the airport.
Fiumicino has been one of the first gateways in the world and the first European hub to be officially accredited as "Welcome Chinese Airport," a certification that testifies the services offered to Chinese tourists awarded by the Chinese Tourism Academy (CTA) earning the "Platinum" level in 2018.
In 2017, Fiumicino Airport also opened an official account on China's popular WeChat digital communications platform, promoting services and tourism in Chinese language.
Rome attracts more than 30 million visitors per year, and around one in every 20 visitors is from China, according to figures released by Rome's tourism office.
The Italian capital's authorities also strive to boost the number of Chinese tourists by planning a series of Chinese-oriented services, ranging from promotions on WeChat to Chinese-language videos promoting top spots in the city, collaboration with Chinese travel services, and more Chinese-language options at top museums and other tourist venues.
(Cover: Planes of the Italian airline company Alitalia park at Rome's Fiumicino airport. /VCG Photo)