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China Eastern to launch new airline amid coronavirus tourism downturn

The global tourism industry might be struggling, but that’s not stopping China‘s second-biggest airline from launching a new carrier in Hainan, the country’s most popular island holiday destination.

The new carrier, Sanya International Airlines — named after the main beach city of Hainan Province — is a joint venture between China Eastern Airlines and several other companies including the state-owned Hainan Province Transport Investment Holding Company Limited and, China’s largest online travel platform.

China Eastern Airlines will be the majority shareholder of the new airline.

Sanya International Airlines was revealed during a signing ceremony on June 13 held to launch the future development of Hainan as a free trade port — “a project envisioned and directed personally by China’s President Xi Jinping,” said a press release issued in Chinese.

“As one of the first airlines to tap into Hainan, China Eastern Airlines has always placed great importance on the development of Hainan’s aviation industry,” said Liu Shao Yong, China Eastern Airlines’ president, in the release.

“China Eastern will take this contract as an opportunity. It will continue to increase its investment in resources in Hainan and fully utilize Hainan’s strength in the aviation industry.”

The company also said that the future Sanya International Airlines will position itself as a world-facing, diversified and innovative air carrier with “excellent genes” — referring to the backing of renowned state-owned and private travel-related companies.

As for when the airline will start flying, no timeline was provided at the ceremony.

Often referred to as the “Hawaii of China,” the southern island province of Hainan is famous for its many tropical beaches and forests. It’s one of the few places in China that offers visa-free access to international tourists from nearly 60 countries, including the United States.

Designated a special economic zone in the 1980s, Hainan has recently sped up its economic and tourism development following the 2018 announcement of Xi’s plan to turn it into a Free Trade Port.

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