Flag carrier Air China will launch the first direct flight between Beijing and the Tibetan capital Lhasa on July 10; state media reported Thursday, in a bid to boost tourism to the Himalayan region.
At less than four hours, the daily flight will cut travel time to Tibet by about two hours, as passengers have so far had to touch down in Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan province, Xinhua news agency said.
The flight could boost tourism; an industry China hopes will benefit Tibet economically, although critics worry it could damage the area's unique culture.
Official statistics show visitor arrivals in the region hit nearly 2.25 million in 2008, down 44 percent, with tourism revenue more than halving from the previous year, Xinhua said.
The decrease was linked mainly to unrest breaking out in the Himalayan region in March last year, followed by a government travel ban.