The HNA Group is finalising its plans for the launch of flights between Beijing and Belgrade with the Serbian President-Elect, Aleksandar Vučić, noting that an official announcement is due next month. "The [outgoing] President had constructive talks in China last week. I believe all is set for flights between Beijing and Belgrade and I will be able to formally announce the good news on May 14 or 15", the incoming President said ahead of his visit to Beijing next month. Initially, Mr Vučić noted that a formal announcement would likely occur last week, however, this did not materialise. The HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, has confirmed it plans to introduce services to Belgrade this year, as well as invest in Belgrade Airport, a flight training school and an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul centre in Serbia.
The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, yesterday emphasised the upcoming service between the two capitals noting that, "Next month's visit will be an opportunity to discuss joint projects and strengthen economic and all other forms of cooperation, which will be attributed by the establishment of direct flights between China and Serbia". Last week, the Serbian government noted it was also looking into possible services between Shanghai and Belgrade. Air Serbia, which boasts a Special Prorate Agreement with Hainan Airlines, met with representatives from the HNA Group two weeks ago and is in discussions over strengthening the partnership between the two in order to cooperate on the future route.
During the first quarter, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Serbia has grown 102%. It comes after the two countries abolished visas for each others' nationals in mid-January. "We hope that the visa free regime, the establishment of a direct flight, joint presentation with our neighbours, as well as the strengthening of regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe will have an influence on Chinese tourists to perceive this region as more attractive than before", the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said. Flights between Beijing and Belgrade last operated in 2000 when they were run by JAT Yugoslav Airlines.