China's Hainan Airlines is starting to build a five-star hotel in this Belgian capital with a total investment of 50 million euros ($65.8 million).
A ceremony to mark the groundbreaking was held on Monday, and completion is targeted for mid-2013.
The move came after the airline was ranked as one of the world's five safest in 2011.
"We have maintained smooth growth in Europe not only in flight but also hotel businesses these years," said Zhang Jinsong, chief representative in charge of Hainan Airlines' European operations.
"We have put an eye on other investment opportunities in Europe but I don't want to reveal details at this early stage."
Zhang said it took two years of negotiation between the airline and the Belgian government to obtain the investment and construction permit.
The company owns one three-star and two four-star hotels in Brussels with a total of 265 guest rooms. The new one is designed to have 181 rooms. Zhang said it very likely will be the first five-star hotel among its peers that is exclusively owned by Chinese investors in foreign countries.
The airline is seeking more expansion opportunities in Europe, Zhang said. It has already opened direct flights linking Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai with Budapest, Brussels, Berlin, Zurich and Moscow.
At Monday's ceremony, Liao Liqiang, China's ambassador to Belgium, said China is keen on boosting investment in Belgium and it is hoped that more job opportunities will result.
The hotel will be constructed by a German company. Nearly 200 jobs are expected to be created once the hotel opens.
Top 5 ranking
The No 5 safety ranking for Hainan Airlines was determined by the German aviation accident investigation agency JACDEC and reported in the February issue of Aero International, a German magazine.
Hainan Airlines was cited for having had no deaths or aircraft losses in its 19 years of service.
The Hamburg-based agency has tracked the world's airline accidents since 1973 and enjoys a global reputation.
Based on its global network and database, JACDEC rated the 60 largest carriers from every continent in terms of casualties and aircraft losses. It said 2011 was the safest year of civil aviation since the end of World War II, even with more aircraft flying.
Hainan Airlines ranked fifth behind All Nippon Airways (Japan), Finnair (Finland), Etihad Airways (United Arab Emirates) and Cathay Pacific Airways (Hong Kong).
Founded in 1933, Hainan Airlines began its first international route in 2001 and soon extended its service to major cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America with about 400 routes. In December, it was named for the second time the best airline in China in the GT Tested Reader Survey Awards, organized by the US magazine Global Traveler.
SOURCE: China Daily
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