Direct flight from China part of plan

Direct China to Christchurch flights will boost tourism in Otago, Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton says.

The first charter flight by China Southern Airlines into Christchurch landed yesterday.

It was the first commercial flight of a B787 Dreamliner to Christchurch, and delivered 228 passengers direct from Guangzhou.

Christchurch International Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said it was part of an initiative aimed at building international arrivals from China to New Zealand via Christchurch, benefiting all the South Island.

''Over the past couple of years, the number of Chinese visiting the South Island has grown substantially,'' he said.

In the past year, there was a 72% increase in Chinese tourism expenditure in the South Island.

Mr Saxton said Chinese flying directly to Christchurch were more likely to spend longer in the South Island, visit more places and spend more money.

Many Chinese tourists were opting to drive themselves around the South Island, rather than join coach tours, which meant they were visiting smaller and more remote parts of the country, he said.

Mr Saxton was in Christchurch yesterday for a meeting to coincide with the Guangzhou flight.

Tourism Dunedin and other regional tourism organisations from the South Island were part of the Christchurch airport's initiative called South, which aimed to boost international visitors to the South Island.

China Southern Airlines general manager, New Zealand, Mike Ma said Christchurch served as a gateway to the South Island.

The Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand said China had quickly grown to be the country's second largest source of international visitors, after Australia.

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