Beginning this June, Hainan Airlines will operate three direct flights a week between Calgary and China’s capital city with a fourth weekly flight expected to be added later this year.

The new route was announced on Friday at the Calgary International Airport during an event that included a Chinese Lion Dance performance.

Calgary joins Toronto as the only Canadian destinations where Hainan Airlines offers non-stop flights to Beijing.

An expected 1.5 million Chinese are planning to travel this year and, with the introduction of a direct flight to Calgary, the airline is banking the Rockies will entice a portion of those tourists to Western Canada.

“There will be lots of interest in Banff or Lake Louise,” said Henry Wang of Hainan Airlines. “Yeah, they know about that.”

Calgary International Airport officials are celebrating the arrival of Hainan Airlines to Calgary and Rick Erickson, an independent aviation analyst, says their enthusiasm is valid.

 “They’ve been working at, as they pointed out, for five or more years,” said Erickson. “You have no idea until you become involved of the complexity, the air traffic rules you have to put up with, the landing slots that you need, the inducements for the carriers, it goes on and on and on.”

Erickson calls Hainan Airlines’ venture into Calgary a bold endeavour given the fact the city was selected as the second Canadian destination over Vancouver.

“This is going to be a winner,” announced Erickson. “It just says winner every way I look at it. A 787? They’re putting their number one airplane on this route. That is an incredibly comfortable aircraft.”

Adam Legge, president the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, says news of the direct flight was embraced by Calgary’s business community.

“It’s a huge, momentous day for Calgary to get direct air service to China,” said Adam Legge. “It would have been good news in positive economic times, it’s even better news in an economic downturn.”

Legge believes Calgary businesses will be able to fill a need in China which he sees as both a growing consumer and industrial nation.

“We can take things like technology, manufactured products, environmental services, those sorts of things, to China because they’re making that shift.”

Tourism Calgary’s Cindy Ady says the arrival of the Chinese tourist market will be a boon to the local economy.

 “At a time when we’re looking at bolstering our tourism and looking where opportunities are, this is a fantastic opportunity,” said Ady. “A direct flight is something that we’ve been looking at for over five years. To be able to have this day come is a very exciting day.”

Hainan Airlines is China’s largest private airline and it has a five star rating with Skytracker. The new route is expected to pump $75 million into the local economy and lead to the creation of more than 600 local jobs.

The airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with its 36 business class and 176 economy class seats, will make its inaugural flight from Calgary to Beijing on June 30, 2016,

With files from CTV's Kevin Green