New partnerships with Hainan Airlines and Alitrip, Alibaba Group’s tourism arm, have been forged by VisitBritain to attract more Chinese travellers to the UK.

The move came as Hainan Airlines owner HNA Group revealed plans for five new routes from China to the UK.

HNA has applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China to start services to the UK from Changsha, Chengdu, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Xi’an by its three subsidiary airlines – Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and Capital Airlines.

Hainan Airlines president Jianfeng Sun said:

“Hainan Airlines will make full use of the opportunities created by the air service agreement to further explore and develop the British market together with VisitBritain.

“Currently, we have applied for direct routes to London from Chengdu, Changsha and Shenzhen. The three routes planned by Hainan Airlines, combined with Tianjin Airlines’ planned Tianjin-Xi’an-London route and Capital Airlines’ planned Qingdao-London route, means HNA Group aims to open a total of five routes to Britain within the next year.

“This is undoubtedly an important milestone in strategic cooperation for both sides and is the beginning of a brand new phase in the Sino-British tourism industry and airway development.”

Hainan Airlines is the only Chinese airline with which VisitBritain has a long-term strategic partnership in China.

The deal with Alitrip will create a virtual British marketplace on its digital platform, showcasing the diversity of UK tourism offerings to millions of Chinese consumers.

The aim is to promote experiences and destinations across Britain to Chinese visitors, converting the inspiration to visit into bookings.

VisitBritain is also working with with SuperSports, China’s official Premier League broadcaster, to run a competition to find China’s biggest Premier League fan, with the prize of a VIP football-themed trip to Britain.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley, leading a tourism delegation to China said in Shanghai: “The UK is home to world-class museums, fantastic heritage sites and stunning countryside.

“This partnership between VisitBritain, HNA Group and Alibaba will make it even easier for Chinese tourists to enjoy the wonderful attractions the UK has to offer, and is another example of how we are doing business right across the globe.”

VisitBritain director Patricia Yates added: “We want to deliver a world-class visitor experience for Chinese customers.

“Working with commercial partners Hainan Airlines we’re making it easier to travel to Britain through increasing route connectivity and seat-capacity, a crucial part of our competitive tourism offer.

“And by amplifying our marketing reach in China with Alitrip, showcasing the diversity of experiences and destinations across Britain, we’re converting the inspiration to visit into bookings, driving our ambitious plans for growth.”