A China Southern Dreamliner, pictured landing in Christchurch on a charter light in February 2014. The airline is about to start a scheduled service between Christchurch and Guangzhou.

Asia’s largest airline is about to become the first Chinese carrier to fly to the South Island.

A China Southern Dreamliner was due at Christchurch Airport late Wednesday afternoon, starting a three-times a week, year-round service between the city and Guangzhou.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said China Southern Airlines – the first Chinese airline to fly to New Zealand – had built Guangzhou into one of the world’s important international airport hubs.

The airline had also successfully built the Canton route, connecting Australia and New Zealand to China, Asia and Europe through Guangzhou.

Government statistics showed that when Christchurch was the entry point for international visitors, visitors on average left around 85% of their spending in the South Island.

This figure dropped to less than 35% when the entry point was not Christchurch, Johns said.

The airport estimated its new and additional services would bring an additional 50,000 international visitors over the next 12 months. At an average visitor spend of $3200, that was more than $150m in visitor spend.

The majority of that spending was expected to stay in the South Island.

Christchurch International Airport (CIAL) said earlier this month it was set for a 16 percent increase in passenger numbers this summer.

Chief commercial officer, aeronautical, Justin Watson, said this would push $150 million of new gross domestic product into South Island regions.

The increase would move CIAL’s numbers from about 5.9 million passengers last year to close to 6.4 million passengers this year – the most passengers the airport had handled in a single year.

The terminal may have nearly 800,000 extra people through it in January or February, counting an average one person who comes to meet passengers.

Summer movements at the airport would include:

* Double-daily 777 services by long-standing airline partner Singapore Airlines, which has lifted services to Christchurch from 365 to 393 a year.

* A 400% increase in A330 services from China Airlines

*Qantas adding a new 737 summer service between Christchurch and Brisbane flying four times a week

*A new year-round 787 China Southern Airlines service direct from Guangzhou, starting at three times a week

*Increased trans-Tasman services from several airlines including Virgin Australia

*Increased domestic services from Air New Zealand and Jetstar

Next year a new Virgin Airlines 737 service would start to the Cook Islands, CIAL said.