The Chinese community in Rwanda has welcomed news that RwandAir will Monday night commence its long-awaited commercial flights to China's third largest city of Guangzhou.
The Kigali-Guangzhou route will be served three times a week by Airbus A330 via Mumbai, airline officials said.
It will be RwandaAir third Asian route after Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Mumbai (India), and the national carrier's longest flight, a whopping 16 hours.
Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province.
Its airport, the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, was in 2017 named China's third-busiest and world's 13th-busiest airport by passenger traffic, handling 65,806,977 passengers that year alone.
RwandAir's maiden flight to Guangzhou is scheduled to depart from Kigali International Airport at 00:40.
Zhang Wenping, the director of the political section at the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda, said the flights will make travel between the two countries shorter and more convenient.
"It has been taking up to 24 hours to travel from Kigali to Guangzhou, but the new route will reduce this time," she said.
She added that RwandAir's flights will make it easier for Chinese and Rwandan businesses and tourists to travel either direction, thus boosting economic activity between the two countries.
"I think this will be a catalyst for stronger tourism relations between China and Rwanda," she told The New Times ahead of the scheduled maiden flight. "We have noted that more and more Chinese are coming to Rwanda and can only expect more to come in the future especially now the new route makes travel easier."
We also expect to see more Rwandans heading to China, she added.
The diplomat also pointed that the fact that the flight will make a stop-over in Mumbai will help "bring India, China and Rwanda even closer."
Wan Yu, a journalist with China's People's Daily, who has visited Rwanda on three occasions, said his past travels to the central African nation were "not very smooth" because of flight connections.
But RwandAir's entry into the market, he said, "will improve the situation".
"I think this new route will help Chinese people to visit Rwanda more easily and conveniently," he said.
He urged Rwandans to introduce more tourism products because he believes more Chinese tourists will now be visiting the country.
The development comes seven months after Rwanda signed three key deals with China's world-renowned conglomerate Alibaba Group that seek to boost trade and tourism ties between Rwanda and China.
Liu Gan Keji, a Chinese telecommunications businessman based in Kigali, said the new route is "good news for businesspersons".
Shu Zhan, a Chinese researcher and member of the China-Africa Think-tank Forum, reckons the flights between Kigali and Guangzhou will help grow the tourism industry not only for Rwanda, but for the Great Lakes region as a whole.
He says, while the flights will mostly be frequented by businesses, young Chinese travel enthusiasts will also be regular passengers.
Guangzhou becomes RwandAir's 28th destination following the launch of flights between Kigali and DR Congo's capital of Kinshasa in April.
A 29th route - to Israel's city of Tel Aviv - is expected to be launched next week.
Guangzhou, known as the Canton City, is a port city northwest of Hong Kong on the Pearl River. The city, one of the major shopping destinations for merchants, is known for popular tourist attractions such as the iconic Canton Tower and Guangzhou Chimelong Tourist Resort.