China’s largest travel agency Ctrip is to sell Stena Line passenger ferry tickets on routes to Ireland.
The distribution deal will enable ferry company to access the vast Chinese market and open up a range of possibilities for self-drive tours to Ireland.
It follows the company agreeing to have four new fuel efficient ferries built in China for delivery in 2019 and 2020 for deployment on Irish Sea routes.
Stena Line chief executive, Niclas Mårtensson, said: “We are very excited about the co-operation with Ctrip and see this agreement as strategically important for Stena Line which will enable us to access a rapidly expanding market.
“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.
“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.”
Tourism Ireland chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said: “Stena Line has 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 GB.”