BUSINESS leaders in Wexford have welcomed the news that a vast new tourism market is in the offing for the county following the signing of an agreement between Stena Line and Ctrip, China's largest travel agent to sell its passenger ferry tickets.
The deal will enable Stena Line to access the huge Chinese market and opens up a range of possibilities for self-drive tours using its extensive route network to the island of Ireland, including through Rosslare Europort, the gateway to this county and country.
Madeleine Quirke, the chief executive of Wexford Chamber, said what she described as an 'exciting partnership' will encourage visitors from China to visit Ireland through Rosslare.
'Wexford Chamber will work with Stena Line and VisitWexford to maximise this valuable opportunity for County Wexford,' said Madeleine.
'It is our projection that we will reach 50,000 Chinese passengers across our routes on the Irish Sea by 2018, where we already have quite a few Chinese passengers travelling with us,' said says Stena Line's CEO Niclas Mårtensson.
China is an exciting market for Stena Line for a number of reasons. This Autumn, the construction of four new flexible and fuel-efficient RoPax ferries will start at the Chinese shipyard AVIC on behalf of Stena Line. The vessels will be delivered during 2019 and 2020 and the plan is to locate the new vessels on Stena Line's Irish Sea routes.
'Looking ahead, we intend to continue our ambitious development plan for our business in the region and the new vessels are a part of this strategic plan", said Mårtensson.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland said: Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said Stena Line had taken part in several of Tourism Ireland's sales missions to China in recent years, 'so it's really great to see the results of that hard work, including this new co-operation with Ctrip.
'Travel agents like Ctrip continue to play an important role in China, with travellers preferring to use a travel agent for a number of reasons, including convenience, language barriers, visa preparation and knowledge gaps.
'Tourism Ireland has a strong network in China, with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Our team in China is working hard to establish and build relationships with influential intermediaries, including key travel trade contacts like Ctrip - highlighting our natural attractions, cities, castles and proximity to Great Britain,' he said.