In anticipation of additional direct flight route between Beijing and Tel Aviv set to launch this fall, Israel’s ambassador to China, Matan Vilnai, vowed to see 100,000 Chinese tourists visiting Israel in 2017.

“My personal goal is 100,000 tourists in Israel in the year 2017,” Vilani said on Wednesday, at a meeting held at the College of Management-Academic Studies in Rishon Lezion. “That is why we are promoting a process of abolition of visas.” In January, Hainan Airlines – China’s fourth-largest air carrier and largest private carrier – announced plans to begin operating three direct weekly flights from Beijing to Ben Gurion Airport in September. The route is slated to operate three days a week, on days that existing El Al flights on the route do not.

As a result of the increased direct flight options, as well as Israel’s desire to attract the expansive Chinese tourist market, the process to cancel visa requirements for said tourists is already underway, Vilani explained. Such a cancellation, he explained, will be crucial in promoting business and diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Vilnai attended the meeting on Wednesday at the initiative of Alex Pevzner, the founding director of the Chinese Media Center at the College of Management’s School of Media Studies. Among the meeting’s participants were members of major Chinese media outlets operating in Israel.

From the Israeli side, the forthcoming inauguration of the new Hainan Airlines route is the result of efforts led by Vilnai in conjunction with the Israeli Tourism Ministry. The Israelis presented Hainan Airlines senior personnel with the economic benefits of operating the route, which has until this point been the exclusive domain of El Al, the Tourism Ministry said.

While in 2014, 116 million Chinese tourists traveled the world, only about 34,100 came to Israel, according to Tourism Ministry data. Nonetheless, the data showed that the number of Chinese tourists coming to Israel has been steadily increasing, rising 76 percent from 2012 to 2014. Despite predictions by the Israel Export Institute last April that Asia would overtake the United States as the second biggest export destination for Israeli products in 2014, the continent remained in third place.

Exports to Asia amounted to about $10b., approximately 21% of Israel’s total exports, with no significant change since the previous year, according to the Israel Export Institute’s “Development and Trends in Israeli Exports” report for 2014. Exports to the United States, on the other hand, amounted to about $10.7b.m approximately 22% of Israel’s total exports, while those to the European Union were worth about $15b., approximately 31% of Israel’s exports.

Regarding China in particular, the Israel Export Institute predicted that trade with the country “will continue to grow at a rapid rate in 2015, but at more moderate rates than in the past.” China became the largest source of global tourism in 2012, and the number is predicted to increase even further, to 200 million overseas tourists by 2020, the Tourism ministry data said. In 2014 alone, Chinese tourists spent $120 billion on vacations.