Hoteliers in Edinburgh are backing a bid to secure Scotland’s first direct air link with China.

The Edinburgh Hotels Association is becoming the second major sponsor of the Edinburgh-China Air Link project.

The collaboration of private businesses and public organisations is being funded by Marketing Edinburgh, Edinburgh airport and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Family jewellers, Laing Edinburgh, signed up to be the project’s first official sponsor a year ago and is now being joined by the body representing 50 of the Scottish capital’s leading hotels.

Edinburgh is the top UK destination outside of London, attracting 82% of Scotland’s total Chinese inbound visitor market, which reached a value of £25.78 million in 2016, accounting for 71% of Chinese visitor spend in Scotland overall.

China has become a top source of investment to Scotland, including investment in the energy sector and travel giant Ctip’s acquisition of Skyscanner for £1.4 billion, with a project to create 200 new jobs in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Hotels Association chairman Tristan Nesbitt said: “It’s evident the popularity of Scotland and Edinburgh as a destination for Chinese visitors has snowballed over the past five years and with no signs of it slowing down, a direct flight from China is the natural next step.

“We’re eager to support this project as it gains momentum, and hope Edinburgh soon becomes the gateway to Scotland for Chinese visitors.”

City of Edinburgh Council economy convener Gavin Barrie said:

“Later this month we will launch our economic strategy for the next five years and a key part of its success will depend upon our continued ability to promote Edinburgh as a quality investment location to the world’s leading economies, including China’s.

“Securing a direct air link would undoubtedly be a major step in the right direction and would only serve to strengthen the close relationship we already enjoy with the Chinese government and their business community.

“With the added support of the city’s hoteliers, I am confident that this innovative partnership approach will soon pay dividends.”

Fiona Hunter, marketing and communications manager of Marketing Edinburgh and Edinburgh-China Air-link project manager, said: “Our bid to secure a direct air link from Scotland to China has been building traction over the past year as we increase awareness of just how pivotal a direct flight could be for Edinburgh and the country as a whole.

“The economic benefits of a direct route have significant and positive implications for Edinburgh’s tourism, hospitality and retail sectors.”