07/19/2013 08:21 EDT | Updated 09/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Chinese airline doubles Vancouver flights

China Eastern Airlines has announced the doubling of daily flights from Vancouver to Shanghai, in a move hailed by Premier Christy Clark as a welcome boost for the B.C. economy.

Clark says the twice daily service, starting Saturday, reflects a growing demand from Chinese tourists, with 150,000 visiting Vancouver last year alone.

"We have seen an increase in travel by 50 per cent from mainland China over the last 12 months, so it has been big. That matters to us because it creates jobs immediately here," Clark said.

The added flight is expected to generate the equivalent of 470 full-time jobs at Vancouver airport and in local hotels, restaurants and shops, resulting in $8.5 million in annual local salaries.

Tourism officials say China is Vancouver's fastest growing market for visitors. Chinese travellers spend an average $1,600 per person while in Canada.

"It was at one time considered emerging, but now we're seeing double-digit growth year-over-year," said Dayna Miller of Tourism Vancouver.

"We're expecting to see somewhere around 10 per cent growth over last year, and hopefully another 10 per cent over next year," Miller added.

At 81 flights per week, Vancouver now offers more flights to and from China than any other city in North America.

China Eastern, one of the three largest airlines in China, has been flying to Vancouver for 10 years.

The goal is to increase travel between B.C. and China by 40 per cent by 2020, the premier said.

"We want to see more people from the mining business, from the natural gas business, forestry - big investments in British Columbia that put people to work," Clark said.

Trade between the province and China has been showing steady growth.

"Last year the trade between China and B.C. reached $15.8 billion, increasing 11.6 per cent than 2011," said Liu Fei, Chinese Consul General in Vancouver.

The premier will also be going to China on a trade mission in the next six months, to drum up more business with a country she calls "a key partner" in the province's Asia Pacific Gateway strategy.