A new, formal relationship with China will help Rotorua reach its goal of an annual $1 billion tourism spend in the district by 2030, mayor Steve Chadwick says.
Mrs Chadwick has signed a memorandum of understanding with Zhengzhou Airport Economic Zone director Wang Fei in order to strengthen the tourism co-operation between Rotorua and the Chinese province of Henan.
This formal relationship will see 1000 more tourists coming to Rotorua from this province, which "will be great for our tourism numbers", Mrs Chadwick said.
She said the partnership would help Henan people learn and understand Maori culture and vice versa.
"It will also advance a cultural relationship between China and Rotorua."
The memorandum will see both sides join in efforts to promote and increase the possibility of a charter flights service with non-stop flights between Zhengzhou and New Zealand, promote and increase the possibility of facilitating the visa application of the participants in the programme, promote New Zealand tourism and reduce the operational cost of the programme.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he was committed to working with Rotorua Lakes Council and its newly formed Economic council controlled organisation to attract funding to assist with the memorandum.
The common goal is to promote and contribute to a 'Henan-New Zealand Tourism and Cultural Exchange Programme'.
"This is unlocking another door for Rotorua as a cultural tourism destination."
Henan is the province with the highest population in China, with more than 100 million people.
Its gross domestic product ranks fifth in China, it is the birthplace of Chinese civilisation and also the province with the most developed tourism resources.
Last year, more than 20,000 people from the province visited Australia and New Zealand.
The memorandum includes a student exchange offer which is yet to be developed, Mrs Chadwick says, and could build on what Rotorua is currently doing in its schools.