Premier Ted Baillieu announced an historic aviation deal for Victoria today, with China's Sichuan Airlines to launch its first Australian flights to Melbourne.
Sichuan Airlines, one of China's fastest-growing airlines, will offer flights three times each week from Chengdu, and will establish its headquarters in Melbourne.
"This is a significant step in positioning Victoria as Australia's gateway to China," Mr Baillieu said.
"Direct air services between Melbourne and Chengdu will increase business, education and tourism ties between Victoria and China.
"We aggressively pursued this deal as part of our long-term strategy to seek new opportunities in western China," Mr Baillieu said.
The flights between the two cities will provide an extra 850 seats per week or 44,200 seats per year between Melbourne and China.
The Premier made the announcement with the Governor of China's Sichuan Province, at the official signing ceremony between Melbourne Airport and Sichuan Airlines.
Mr Baillieu said the deal was an excellent outcome for the Victorian Coalition Government's super trade mission to China.
"This announcement is a testament to the growing relationship between the Victorian Government, Sichuan Province and Sichuan Airlines and builds on the recent sister airport relationship established between Melbourne and
Chengdu," Mr Baillieu said.
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and is one of the largest cities in western China, with a population of 14.7 million.
The city has been at the heart of the economic and development boom in China's west and is one of the country's most important economic, transportation and communication centres.
"The rapid development of Chengdu will provide new opportunities for Victorian companies in areas such as food and beverage, education, and sustainable urban design," Mr Baillieu said.
The deal follows the launch in Shanghai of the Victorian Coalition Government's $8 million China tourism campaign which aims to increase visitation to Victoria and leverage the state's strong Chinese student and migrant links.
Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said expanding Victoria's aviation capacity was critical to attracting more international visitors.
"These new direct air services between Victoria and China are a significant development in achieving our long-term vision for our priority markets," Ms Asher said.
The deal is one of the highlights of the Premier's super trade mission to China, which is targeting 13 cities across China and includes delegates from more than 400 world-class Victorian organisations.
"This announcement is exactly what the mission is all about – building relationships and further strengthening ties that will be beneficial to both Victoria and China on a business, personal and cultural level," Mr Baillieu said.