China Southern Airlines Boeing 787 aircraft arrives at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, capital of Mexico, April 11, 2017. China Southern Airlines on Tuesday opened the flight connecting Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, with Mexico City. (Xinhua/Francisco Canedo)
by Edna Alcantara and Su Jiawei
MEXICO CITY, April 11 (Xinhua) -- China Southern Airlines on Tuesday inaugurated a flight that connects Guangzhou with Mexico City.
The route is the company's first to Latin America, where Mexican authorities hope the air connection will help boost tourism from China.
"With the inauguration of the flight, we hope to see an increase in the number of Chinese visitors traveling for leisure, but also for business," Mexico's deputy minister of tourism, Salvador Sanchez, said at a ceremony at the international airport of Mexico City.
According to Sanchez, tourists from China will grow 50 percent, thanks to the new air link.
Based in Guangzhou in China's southern Guangdong province, China Southern Airlines is the world's fourth-largest airlines as measured by passengers carried annually.
Mexico's deputy foreign affairs minister, Carlos Alberto De Icaza, said the flight "is the outcome of the good relationship and ties of friendship between China and Mexico."
Also on hand was China's ambassador to Mexico, Qiu Xiaoqi, who agreed "China-Mexico ties have entered a new stage."
China is now the second-largest trade partner for Mexico, a country that is "strategic in the Latin American region," and one with which China "seeks to strengthen economic and tourism development between the two countries," said Qiu.
The new route, which will operate three times a week, "was mandated by both governments," Qiu added.
China Southern Airlines President Wang Changshun hailed the route as helping to consolidate the carrier's presence in the Latin American market, and said his company plans to invest further to offer its newfound "potential" Mexican and Latin American customers diverse products.
The 228-passenger Boeing 787 landed in Mexico City at 8:30 a.m. local time on Monday, after a brief stopover in Vancouver, Canada, and was welcomed on the tarmac with the customary water-cannon salute, as well as a traditional Mexican mariachi band.
Prior to the opening of the new route, the only other air connection between Mexico and China was a Mexico City-to-Shanghai flight operated by Mexican national airline Aeromexico.
In 2016, 74,300 Chinese travelers visited Mexico, a 33.5 percent increase over the year before, according to Mexico's Tourism Ministry.
The new flight is expected to raise that number to 102,000, the ministry said.