Scotland today gains its first direct air link with China with Hainan Airlines touching down at Edinburgh airport.

Two flights a week will serve Beijing, helping to open up one of the world’s most valuable tourism markets.

The new route from China will bring a starting capacity of an additional 29,000 Chinese visitors to the Scottish capital.

Chinese tourists already contribute £26.5 million to Edinburgh’s economy.

The new route also means Scottish businesses no longer need to stopover in London or elsewhere so fresh produce can gain up to an extra two to three days shelf life in market, while the duration and cost of business trips will be reduced.

As well as short-term holiday trips, the increased connectivity is expected to attract a greater number of Chinese students to Scotland and investors, who are more likely to consider Edinburgh as their next business destination.

The Beijing connection will act as a major hub Asia, opening the doors to more visitors from countries such as Singapore and Vietnam.

The China connection follows two years of campaigning by Marketing Edinburgh, Edinburgh airport and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Gordon Robertson, communications director at Edinburgh airport and chairman of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “Having direct connectivity to China will deliver a massive tourism boost for the city and country’s economy and we’re delighted to welcome the first flight to the capital today.

“This really is testament to the support and backing of our campaign and we’re thrilled the work has paid off.”

The Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh Frank Ross said: “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a number of organisations and it is fantastic for all of us to see the new flight schedule up and running.

“As the only Scottish city with a direct flight to China, the new route will provide Edinburgh with substantial outreach to Asia for tourism, business travel and investment opportunities.

“This will be supported by many across the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors through the city’s innovative ‘China Ready’ campaign and I’m sure it will also be welcomed by Edinburgh’s many business travellers and holidaymakers.”