Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa says the flights launched on Wednesday will see increased bilateral ties between China and Kenya.
He says China is the fastest growing tourism market in the world and more flights between the two countries will increase tourists from China.
China Southern Airlines made its maiden flight from Guangzhou to Nairobi on Wednesday with the new service having a frequency of three flights a week under the airline’s own code.
The airline will fly in and from Nairobi every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
However, under a code-share agreement with Kenya Airways, both airlines will provide 20 flights on the new route.
“With over 100 million Chinese tourists who travel the world, China should be among the top three tourism key markets in Kenya,” Ndegwa told Capital FM Business.
He said that KTB will also be signing a joint marketing agreement with the airline.
China Southern Airlines Chairman Si Xianmin says additional flights will provide passengers with convenience besides increasing the number of businesses and leisure travellers into Africa and Asia.
“The new route will make it more convenient for passengers on transit to and from other African countries to China, South East Asia, and North East Asia among others through our extensive route network,” Si said.
The airline signed a Memorandum of Understanding with both KQ and the Kenya Airports Authority detailing their envisaged commercial relationship.
“We welcome the China Southern Airlines’ entry into Kenya as it is complementary to our presence on the route as we have a code-share agreement in place. KQ customers will now be able to connect to other destinations in China and Asia given China Southern’s extensive presence in those markets,” said KQ Chief Executive Officer Mbuvi Ngunze.
Ngunze admitted the KQ results that recorded a Sh25.7 billion net loss in its 2015 results have raised concerns about the airline both locally and internationally.
“We have prioritised to put the airline back on its profitability; we are working very hard with our key stakeholders to see this come true,” Ngunze added.
KQ and China Southern Airlines signed a code shared agreement in 2009 and provided a framework for partnership between KQ and China Southern Airlines that saw them market and sell one another’s flights as if they were their own on the Nairobi- Dubai -Guangzhou route.
The agreement also expanded services from Bangkok to Wuhan, one of the busiest cities in Central China that is an important centre for trade, finance and transportation.
As part of the expanded scope, KQ passengers also get seamless access to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth through China Southern Airlines flights from Guangzhou China, providing another valuable benefit to its customers.
In return, China Southern Airlines code-share on KQ flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi, and onwards to Lagos, Johannesburg and Lusaka.
China Southern Airline is the largest airline in the people’s republic of China with the largest fleet, most developed route network, and largest number of passengers carried.
In 2014, the airline carried over 100 million passengers, making it the first in Asia and third worldwide.