Making the Connection Between Air Travel, Exports, and Jobs

August 13, 2013

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Justin Fisk is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia, taking graduate courses at the George Washington University.

Houston’s exports have been soaring, and they will get an additional boost now that Air China, China’s flag carrier, opened up a non-stop flight route between Beijing and Houston.

This is Air China’s first non-stop flight route to the U.S. in 30 years, and it is easy to see why Air China chose Houston—the city consistently ranks near the top of the most globally-oriented business communities in America.

In fact, for the first time since the data has been collected, Houston became the top exporter among U.S. metropolitan areas in 2012. Houston’s goods exports totaled $110 billion, accounting for more than half of all Texas exports.

This new flight will only help Houston exporters continue to expand to new markets.

Behind Mexico, Canada, and Brazil, China is Houston’s fourth-largest export market, importing more than $5 billion of goods from Houston in 2012. With China’s rapid urbanization and growing middle class, demand for American-made products is likely to grow. This new flight is the next step in expanding the relationship between Houston and China.

The Houston Airport System’s economist estimates the Air China flight will bring $150-200 million of annual benefits to Houston. The flight will enable more face time between Chinese and American businessmen, a crucial aspect of the Chinese business custom of Guanxi. That can facilitate more export deals with the country and more investment in the U.S. from Chinese companies.

Houston also stands to benefit from the increase in Asian tourists that this flight route will bring. The travel and tourism industry is a huge contributor to the U.S. economy, accounting for $87.1 billion in U.S. exports in the first half of 2013. China has been one of the fastest growing markets for visitors to the United States.

Our Export Assistance Center is always ready to support Houston-area businesses looking to take advantage of new export opportunities. Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency is also planning to launch a new Business Center in Houston, which will help regional minority-owned businesses expand to new markets and increase exports.

These benefits will lead to more than just increased tourism numbers and contract signings. These exports support jobs in Houston, throughout Texas, and across the country. Metro exports are a huge contributor to national export numbers, and Houston’s success is setting the example for other metropolitan areas to follow.

With each new international flight route, the world becomes more interconnected, and as Houston continues to expand its relationships with international markets, its exports will continue to soar.

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