China’s Hainan Airlines has submitted a request to the Civil Aviation Authority to operate a route between Guangzhou in southern China and Ben-Gurion Airport, the Transportation Ministry announced on Tuesday.This would be the third route Hainan Airlines – China’s fourth-largest air carrier and its largest privately owned one – would operate to Israel.It already operates four to five direct weekly flights between Beijing and Tel Aviv, in addition to the El Al flights between those destinations. Starting in September, Hainan Airlines will also operate three weekly flights between Shanghai and Tel Aviv.Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said increasing the locations connected by direct flights is expected to provide help in realizing the enormous potential of inbound tourism from China and increase Israel’s exposure as a desirable tourist destination.“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of Chinese who admire the history of the Jewish people and the Jewish sites, which attract millions of visitors from all over the world,” said Katz.The Transportation Ministry noted that in the first half of 2017, the number of tourists from China increased by 75% in comparison with the same period in 2016. In the first six months of 2017, it recorded 61,000 visits by Chinese tourists.The expansion of flights to the Far East is part of the Open Sky Reform. “The reform allows the Israeli consumer to purchase airline tickets to dozens of new destinations, all over the world, at very low prices,” Katz said.The country experienced its best half-year ever in the history of the country’s tourism industry, breaking incoming traveler records each month so far in 2017.During the first six months of the year, 1.74 million tourists entered the country, up 26% from the first half of last year and generating NIS 9.4 billion in revenues, according to the ministry. In June, 303,000 tourists visited – a 28% rise in comparison to June 2016.