South East Wales

Dusseldorf to Cardiff service bid to win tourism cash

Plane on tarmac at Dusseldorf airport, Germany
Image caption Lufthansa will operate the Dusseldorf to Cardiff service once a week

A new air service linking Wales and Germany is welcoming its first flight, as tourism chiefs bid to win a slice of the German tourism market.

The weekly route from Dusseldorf to Cardiff will be operated by Europe's largest airline - Lufthansa.

It follows a marketing campaign in Dusseldorf by the tourism arm of the Welsh government, Visit Wales.

The government says Germany will be one of its key target markets in a new strategy unveiled later in the year.

It is the first new service linking Wales and Germany since the now defunct Bmibaby airline ran winter flights to Munich, which ended in 2011.

According to official estimates, about 90,000 Germans make a holiday trip to Wales at the moment.

But it is hoped that the new Dusseldorf route - and the 20-million people living within an hour of its airport - will now make Wales an even more attractive destination.

Its tourism market is already worth £31m a year, and Berlin-based journalist Hannah Cleaver said the link between Dusseldorf and Cardiff made sense on paper.

"Germans have a really close and positive relationship with southern Ireland, and this rides on the coat-tails of that," said the acting editor of the English online news site, The Local.

"The idea of going on holiday to a green and pleasant land is something that really appeals to Germans, and I think German people know that Wales is there."

She said that linking Dusseldorf and Cardiff was a "reasonable match", and that both regions shared similar industrial histories in areas such as steel and coal.

"It could work out well - if Wales is sold well," she added.

Tour of Wales

It is a message that has not been lost on a body like Visit Wales. Alongside the marketing campaign it is running in Dusseldorf itself, Saturday's inaugural flight into Cardiff will be carrying a group of tour operators and German journalists.

They will be taken on a sightseeing tour to give them a flavour of what the whole of Wales has to offer, from the cultural and urban highlights of Cardiff, to the panoramic views of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia.

"I'd like to extend a warm welcome to those travelling on this inaugural flight from Germany - this new route is an exciting development for Cardiff Airport and Wales," said Economy Minister Edwina Hart.

"I expect that their visit to Wales will encourage more tour operators to include Wales in their brochures and programmes which will help in making Wales more accessible as a holiday destination to more German visitors."

It is also being seen as a key development in the revival of Cardiff airport itself, after being recently bought by the Welsh government for £52m.

The airport is already undergoing a £500,000 facelift to promote Welsh culture and heritage.

But the latest passenger figures released in April showed that the airport had seen a 15% slump for the year to March - dipping to just under 1-million.

Jon Horne, chief executive of Cardiff Airport commented: "We're extremely pleased to welcome Lufthansa to Cardiff, having such a prestigious national carrier is an important step for Cardiff and Wales.

"We hope that a successful initial service for Lufthansa will lead to further services between Germany and Wales."

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