The charter flight bound for Hungary took off from Ningbo Lishe International airport. [Photo by Yan Long]
By Jin Lu
A charter flight bound for Hungary's Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport took off from Ningbo Lishe International airport at 10:07AM on July 10^th, carrying a delegation of 36 government officials and business representatives from Ningbo and Shanghai.
This is the first charter flight in China backed by the local government to help local entrepreneurs consolidate their ties with the European market.
Regaining a Foothold in the European Market
"We have several in-person meetings with French companies scheduled for mid-July to discuss orders," said Yuan Lin, a manager with a garment exporter in Ningbo aboard the charter flight.
"July happens to be the start of a new season in fashion. We have brought a lot of new autumn and winter styles this time. I hope we can secure old clients' orders and gain new clients at the same time," Yuan added.
Many innovative home products manufactured by Ningbo Rollmax Shutter Component Co., Ltd., such as smart window accessories and electric clothes racks, are bestsellers in overseas markets. Ding Yandong, general manager of the company, immediately signed up after he heard about the charter flight. Ding said he planned to go to Poland to renew orders with regular clients.
Sun Chonglong, executive director of Ningbo Lianbang Changyun International Trade Co., Ltd., will be signing a general agent agreement in person with two beef factories in Hungary.
"After this agreement is signed, our company will increase beef imports to China by ?350 million ($52.16 million) annually," Sun said. "This trip is of great significance. It shows that the government is actively helping enterprises maintain and strengthen business ties with foreign clients and factories."
Ningbo Supports SMEs
The charter flight was organized with the support of many local government departments in Ningbo, including the Municipal Commercial Bureau, Foreign Affairs Office, Health Commission, and Public Security Bureau.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Ningbo importers and exporters could not have regular in-person talks or international visits with their partners. Communication was reduced to video conferencing, phone calls, and emails. However, these modes have their limitations. In addition, given global port congestions, in-transit orders face possible cancellations.
As a result, Ningbo exporters have seen a decline in their overseas orders. Since international flights are few and far in between, the local government decided to organize a charter flight, explained Fei Jianming, an official from the Ningbo Municipal Bureau of Commerce leading the delegation.
Ningbo has taken a series of measures to support local foreign trade SMEs, such as facilitating the entry and exit of import-export companies' staff and introducing new policies to stimulate high-quality development of the export sector. Sending a business delegation via the charter flight is yet another move that shows Ningbo's determination to help enterprises secure orders and expand the international market, while achieving faster economic recovery and growth.
For Chinese companies, especially those based in Zhejiang, the move will give them the confidence that the government stands ready to help out in challenging times.
How to Apply for the Charter Flights
In addition to the Ningbo-Budapest-Hangzhou flight, another air charter, departing from Ningbo for Milan and eventually returning to Hangzhou, is scheduled for July 21 and 22.
If you have business to conduct overseas, how can you apply for a seat on a chartered flight organized by the local government? Journalists from Ningbo Times interviewed officials from the Ningbo Municipal Bureau of Commerce to bring you the answers.
Q1: What are the requirements for application?
A1: The application is open to any company based in China that needs to send staff overseas to conduct business talks for the purpose of market expansion.
Q2: How can I apply for the charter flight?
A2: The Ningbo Municipal Bureau of Commerce will post the information on its WeChat account. Interested companies can log onto a miniprogram and fill out the forms before the deadline. The Commerce Bureau's staff will contact you after receiving the forms.
Q3: After successful registration, what services will the local government provide?
A3: The government will help facilitate visa applications and offer discounted airfares in accordance with relevant regulations.
Comments from the Ningbo Times Readers' Club
I heard about the charter flight from Ningbo to Budapest. It's very good news because it means that the government is actively taking a role in helping local businesses to restart after the pandemic, which brought a slowdown in international business. This could be a good start for the Ningbo economy since it has long-standing business partnerships with CEEC markets. This could also be a great opportunity for Europe as well, in terms of revamping the economy and initiating mutually-beneficial cooperation.
Hopefully, there will be more such charter flights to Europe. This way, the Zhejiang economy could improve its economic relations with European markets.
——Mattia Marchetti Aloisio, branding specialist at an export company in Ningbo.