A warm welcome for Chinese passengers flying to Italy
In order to better welcome Mandarin-speaking tourists, the international airport of Malpensa in Northern Italy has boosted its ties with China by launching the â€œChinese Friendly Airportâ€ program. Chinese tourism to Italy is booming, rising 104% between 2008 and 2012, while domestic tourism has recently been surpassed by the inflow of foreign visitors, 50,1% and 50,4% respectively. One million Chinese citizens are expected to land in Milan for Expo 2015 (May 1 to Oct. 31, 2015).
SEA, the firm that runs Milanâ€™s hubs of Malpensa and Linate, stated that contacts are underway with flight companies such as China Eastern, China Southern and Hainan Airlines to intensify the frequency of flights to and from China. Currently, Air China and Cathay Pacific operate between Milan Malpensa and Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. The Chief Operating Officer of SEA, Giulio De Metrio, said that "Milan Malpensa is being completely renovated in view of the Milan Expo and building a bridge with China is fundamental for us." Main Chinese destinations received 570,000 passengers in 2013, or 750,000 when connecting flights are considered; this is a 179% rise from the 260,000 passengers of 2008.
The new â€œChinese Friendly Airportâ€ program provides for the Chinese translation of the hubâ€™s signage, a dedicated discount shopping card, Mandarin-speaking â€œshopping helpersâ€, collaboration with specialized tour operators and the adaptation of the airportâ€™s app for smartphone. The initiative was carried out after the airportâ€™s management organized a traditional Chinese lion dance at Malpensa on the occasion of the lunar New Year as a display of friendship and interest towards the Asian giant. De Metrio pointed out that Malpensa strives to become "the favored airport in Europe for Chinese passengers who come to visit Italy." In the meantime, connections between Milan and Shanghai rose from five to seven flights a week, while flights to Beijing rose from three to five.