Rotorua's council has signed a memorandum of understanding with China Southern Airlines - Asia's largest passenger carrier.
The signing, held in Guangzhou, China, on Monday night, was the culmination of months of discussion, but does not mean Rotorua will get any extra international flights.
The Rotorua District Council delegation, led by deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell, also included the council's Economic and Regulatory Services group manager Mark Rawson, Destination Rotorua Marketing's Oscar Nathan and Shelley Huang, as well as representatives from Rotorua's local tourism and tertiary education sectors.
Also attending were Asia for Tourism New Zealand regional manager Tony Everitt and New Zealand Chinese Herald director Raymond Chen.
The memorandum is aimed at collaboration across trade and product development, as well as mutually growing profiles and opportunities.
According to Mr Nathan, the memorandum paves the way for Rotorua to work closely with China Southern's marketing, public relations and foreign affairs departments and through their New Zealand office, to begin implementing the next steps.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Maxwell said it was important to develop the potential for China's semi-FIT (free, independent traveller) inbound market and to work with the likes of Auckland International Airport and key regions, such as Auckland and Queenstown, to achieve this.
He said the signing was not just an opportunity for Rotorua to offer enhanced tour options and experiences, but it was also one for regions to work together to offer quality and diversity in itineraries right across the country.
"Currently, Rotorua welcomes around 85 per cent of all Chinese visitor arrivals to New Zealand. However, the dynamics are changing and it's exciting for us to be at this juncture with China Southern Airlines, particularly at a time when the market is going from strength to strength," he said.
Chinese tourists overtook the United States as New Zealand's third-largest visitor source in September and have come to New Zealand in increasing numbers - up 38 per cent compared with last year.
China Southern Airlines executive vice-president He Zong Kai told the delegation he acknowledged the opportunity to work together to grow awareness of Rotorua across southern China and at the same time to increase the visitor flow, profile and understanding of China Southern Airlines' offering in New Zealand.
Mr Rawson said Rotorua had been attracting Chinese visitors for many years and would continue to work with all carriers, including Air New Zealand.
He said the signing would require Rotorua to take an even closer look at itself so it could increase the value and length of stay for Chinese visitors to the region.
"This approach is extremely exciting for Rotorua," Mr Rawson said. "It's part of a marketing strategy for the destination which will continue to evolve to include other Chinese speaking markets across Asia over time.
"Working with the likes of China Southern Airlines and other principal carriers to grow inbound value to New Zealand is important for our country's inbound tourism. Key to this is the likes of Auckland International Airport, which is aiming to generate more than 430,000 arrivals from China and across Asia by 2020."
China Southern Airlines fly a daily service between Auckland and Guangzhou.
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said even though the signing would not generate any extra flights for Rotorua it would bring more Chinese visitors to Rotorua.