The surging number of Chinese airlines arriving in New Zealand has prompted changes to air services agreements to cope with them all.
The Government has just signed off an extension of weekly services from 42 flights each way to 49 and Transport Minister Simon Bridges said there was room for even more growth.
This summer that new upper limit will be close to being reached with flights between Auckland and Christchurch airports and cities in mainland China. New carriers Hainan Airlines and Tianjin will enter the New Zealand market at the end of the year with services three times a week each.
"With China we're in a position that given the real growth with two or three new players coming in the number [of agreements] does need lifting," Bridges said.
Although Hong Kong was not part of the agreements with China, more growth is looming with Hong Kong Airlines about to start daily services and Cathay Pacific stepping up capacity with a new plane and an additional aircraft over summer.
Bridges said there was scope to tap into the massive market in Asia even further.
"The holy grail in air services agreements would be the first country that not only has arrangements with Hong Kong, Taiwan and China but to link them domestically," the minister told the Herald at a function to welcome Cathay's new A350XWB aircraft.
"That is something that Air New Zealand would be interested in - we consistently raise this with governments over that side of the world."
There could be some tricky political hurdles to overcome but Bridges said it was something worth pursuing.
"Given it hasn't happened yet it's not something they're actively pursing from their side but if they were to do it with anyone, why not New Zealand? ''
Higher value free, independent travellers would be attracted by airlines offering full service from China and Hong Kong, he said.
Bridges' comments come as a major China tourism conference starts in Auckland today where pressure on infrastructure will be discussed.
The three-day New Zealand Tourism Investment Summit will explore how New Zealand providers can understand and target Chinese visitors.
More than 395,000 visitors arrived from China in the year to June 31, 2016, a 26.5 per cent increase on the same period a year earlier and there are concerns the shortage of accommodation could slow tourism growth.
As part of the summit, the China Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand will be hosting about 100 high value guests which include some of China's top investment advisers and tourism leaders, as well as a number of businesses that have expressed an interest in investing in New Zealand's tourist infrastructure.