Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First China Flight Lands Friday Visitpittsburgh Agency Spending $300,000 to Make Sure Shanghai Travelers Have Fun

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First China Flight Lands Friday Visitpittsburgh Agency Spending $300,000 to Make Sure Shanghai Travelers Have Fun

Article excerpt

The flight that will land at Pittsburgh International Airport on Friday will be unlike any other in the region's history, even in the airport's heyday as a hub.

Touching down will be a charter flight carrying more than 300 visitors from Shanghai. It will mark the first time a commercial flight from China has landed in Pittsburgh - one backed by nearly $1 million in incentives.

And the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 777 will be packed to brim with tourists eager to check out the sights in Pittsburgh and in other parts of the United States.

The flight is one of two that China Eastern will operate between Shanghai and Pittsburgh this month. The other will arrive Aug. 11. The return flight to China that day will take home many of the visitors who are arriving this week. It also is full.

For the Allegheny County Airport Authority, this is another bid to boost service from Pittsburgh -- yet it's different than many of the others given the market involved.

Like the British Airways service to London and the Wow and Condor flights to Iceland and Frankfurt, Germany, respectively, the stakes are high. The authority, which runs Pittsburgh International, is spending $560,000 to subsidize the flight.

The VisitPittsburgh tourism agency is kicking in another $300,000 in cash and inkind contributions, while the Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that works with Chinese families and students to encourage educational ties and investment, is spending $50,000.

Those subsidies are part of a three-year agreement with tour operator Caissa Touristic to market and sell trips to Pittsburgh. The flight itself is guaranteed for only one year - making a good start this month all that more important.

The hope is that the two seasonal charter flights in August will lead to more in the years ahead - and eventually to regularly scheduled commercial trips.

"We want to be a regular stop for Chinese visitation," said Craig Davis, VisitPittsburgh CEO and president.

That's a big reason the region is rolling out the red carpet for the visitors arriving from Shanghai Friday afternoon.

There will be festivities at the airport, with volunteers available to help them navigate customs and any language barriers. All 300-plus passengers from the flight will be offered a welcome dinner at the Carnegie Science Center.

As part of their tour package, some travelers also will spend time in Pittsburgh riding the incline, taking in the sights from Mount Washington, and visiting the Carnegie museums in Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh nationality rooms before leaving for other cities.

Local officials are hoping that the visitors' first impressions of the Steel City will be positive and that they will take to the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to spread the news. …

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