A new direct flight between Las Vegas and Beijing was launched on Friday, linking the "entertainment capital of the world" with the Chinese mainland for the first time.

The service will be operated by Hainan Airlines, employing a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner jet. It will make the trip three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The flights depart McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas at 1:10 pm Pacific time and arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport at 6:10 pm the subsequent day.

The return flights depart Beijing at 2:40 pm and arrive in Las Vegas at 10:50 am the same day. Flying times are approximately 13 hours westbound and 12 hours eastbound.

While Hou Wei, senior vice president of Hainan Airlines, said they "made history", Las Vegas tourism officials considered the nonstop route from Beijing as "long awaited" for more than 10 years, as Chinese travelers are one of the fastest-growing and largest-spending groups of international visitors to Las Vegas.

Previously, travelers between the two points had to connect via a third US or Asian city. The new route cuts hours off the previous travel time. It is expected to introduce millions of prospective visitors to Las Vegas and generate an estimated $33.5 million annually in direct visitor-spending for Southern Nevada.

"The international marketplace is the key to our success in the future from the leisure side as well as from the convention-meeting side," said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "We know that the growth market in the future is going to include China."

The US Commerce Department projects that nearly 100 million international visitors will travel to the US by 2021. "We know China is going to allow us to do that," he added.

The new flight will bring more visits from not only Beijing but also other cities in the future, which is critical, said Ralenkotter.

Las Vegas launched the "China Ready" program last year with the hotel industry and McCarran Airport to prepare for Chinese visitors. The airport is now equipped with Mandarin signage, Chinese-speaking ambassadors to welcome passengers and help them to navigate, as well as a WeChat presence.

The Las Vegas-Beijing flight will drive cultural and business exchanges between the US and China, Luo Linquan, Chinese consul general in San Francisco, said at a news conference for the flight launch in Las Vegas on Friday.

"It is well known Las Vegas is a city of tourism, a city of conventions, attracting nearly 200,000 Chinese visitors every year. Las Vegas is one of the favorite Chinese business travel destinations in the US, and Beijing is China's cultural and international communication heart," he said. "The two cities are complementary economies with big potential for cooperation."

The new air route marks Hainan Airlines' 10th destination in North America since Beijing-Seattle service was launched in 2008.

"Las Vegas has become a major draw for Chinese tourists in recent years. Its image has changed from casinos alone to conventions, entertainment and sightseeing," said Hou. "The new service further complements our intercontinental network."

The airline's goal is to make the flight a daily service, but it is subject to the quota from China's aviation authority, according to Hou.

Editor: Zeng Yunheng