IRELAND needs a direct flight to China and needs to be "visa friendly" to tap into a potential $442bn Chinese tourism boom, according to the head of Tourism Ireland.
Speaking at a conference on building win-win strategic partnerships between Ireland and Asia, Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons revealed that Tourism Ireland has submitted marketing proposals via the Dublin Airport Authority to team up with a Chinese airline to help bring direct flights here.
"That direct flight is absolutely vital, that is number one," said Mr Gibbons who said that the US and Japan were now offering 10-year visas to Chinese citizens to boost tourism numbers from the country.
China's ambassador to Ireland, Dr Yue Xiaoyong, told the Asia Matters conference in Cork that bilateral trade between Ireland and China was picking up "dramatically" this year after experiencing a 13.75pc growth last year.
He also urged Ireland to build more quality hotels to accommodate increased tourism visits from Chinese nationals.
By 2020, Chinese overseas tourism is set to grow from 135 million global visits to 200 million, a $261bn market that is set to grow to $442bn during that period.
The conference, organised by Asia Matters, Ireland's only Asia-focused think tank, also heard that last year 20pc of new foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ireland came from Asia.