The first Dreamliner from China Southern Airlines has touched down in Christchurch this afternoon.
The service, in partnership with Christchurch Airport and the South Island tourism industry, will operate three times a week between the garden city and Guangzhou.
Several Chinese VIPs were on board the flight that landed just before 5pm.
The visitors were welcomed with a "water arch" over the plane after it touched down, a formal Maori welcome, Canterbury's Cabinet Ministers and ten Mayors from around the South Island in attendance, short speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
History is being made, Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns says, as the airline is the first Chinese carrier to fly to the South Island.
"With this new service, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch city and the South Island have an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the Canton route, bringing Chinese visitors here and helping South Islanders travel to China and beyond," he says.
Mr Johns says there has been a dedicated team working in China with the Chinese airline over the past two years to make the service a reality.
"Christchurch Airport has to compete hard for international air services as it is our share of international visitors using us as a gateway which provides the opportunity for growth given the size of our local population," he says.
The new service will offer more than 70,000 seats in its first year of operation, with estimations it will increase growth in visitor spending by more than $100 million across the southern regions.
"Government statistics show that when Christchurch is the entry point for international visitors, every South Island region benefits, because visitors on average leave around 85 percent of their spending in the South Island."
"This drops to less than 35 percent when the entry point is not Christchurch," Mr Johns says.