China's continuous economic growth, significant investment in infrastructure, and growing middle class are all contributing to an increased demand for travel and a need for more flights to major destinations. The Greater Seattle region is one such destination: the Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Hainan Airlines, China's largest private air carrier, is interested in launching more China-US direct flights, as more Chinese travelers are visiting the US.
According to Export.gov, China is rapidly becoming one of the most important outbound tourism markets in the world. The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) states that Chinese outbound travelers reached 120 million in 2015, an increase of 5 million travelers from 2014. China represented the fastest growing source of international arrivals into Washington State between 2014 - 2016, and the US is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers. In 2015, China ranked as the 5th largest international market (and 3rd largest overseas market) for the US. While final 2016 data is not yet available, an estimated 3 million Chinese (excluding Hong Kong) visited the U.S. in 2016, constituting a 16 percent increase over 2015.
The United States welcomed a record 2.59 million visitors from China in 2015 and received more than $30 billion in spending from Chinese tourists on travel and tourism related goods and services. Hainan Airlines has the biggest fleet of Dreamliners of any airline in China, making destinations like Seattle, Las Vegas, Boston and Chicago accessible on direct flights from cities like Shanghai and Beijing. The airlines has a partnership with Greater Seattle's Alaska Airlines, which links passengers from Hainan arrivals on to their domestic destinations. Their partnership is important for their passengers, one third of which use Alaska to reach their final US destination.
"China's fleet size is expected to grow at a pace well above the world average, and almost 20 percent of global new airplane demand will be from airlines based in China," Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth said in a recent PSBJ article.