China Southern Airlines has started flying daily to and from New Zealand in a move welcomed as a boost for the economy.
The airline began flying three times a week from Guangzhou to Auckland in April - a service which was yesterday increased to every day.
Auckland Airport general manager of aeronautical commercial Glenn Wedlock said the airport was focused on increasing air services and direct routes, particularly in booming Asian markets.
"There is a proven link between regular air services and economic growth, and it's predicted that this increased direct service to Guangzhou will boost New Zealand's economy by an estimated $100 million from in-bound tourism." Wedlock said.
The three-day service had been expected to generate $75 million of extra value for the tourism industry, taking the estimated total for the daily service to $175 million a year.
Increasing connections to high-growth markets like China was essential for New Zealand's economic success, he said.
Forecasts by the Ministry of Economic Development in September predicted Chinese tourists will spend $604 million in 2013, overtaking both Britain and the United States.
Chinese tourist numbers were forecast at 229,023 in 2014, which was also higher than Britain and the US.
According to Statistics New Zealand, total short-term overseas visitor arrivals for the year to the end of August were down 0.5 per cent to 2.5 million, with China the only top-five source country to show a rise - up 18.2 per cent to 135,062 people. Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the increased frequency of flights supported a high level of interest within China in New Zealand as a tourism destination.
"Our research shows that while plenty of people know about New Zealand, and might have it on their personal list of places to visit, having a daily flight option can convert that interest into action," Bowler said.
Pat English - the New Zealand consul-general and trade commissioner for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise in Guangzhou - said Southern China had strong links with New Zealand.
"China is now New Zealand's second-largest trading partner and we hope to double two-way trade with China to $20 billion by 2015," English said.
"Currently more than a third of New Zealand's exports to China are destined for Guangdong province and surrounding provinces, so daily flights will help open up doors for more New Zealand businesses."
Si Xianmin, chairman of China Southern - which has 422 aircraft and flies to 121 destinations - said the airline understood that New Zealand and Australia had special connections with Britain.
"So our next target will be to connect London to New Zealand and Australia via Guangzhou."