SAN FRANCISCO -- In the latest sign of the growing economic and cultural ties between the Bay Area and China, San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday unveiled a new Chinese-language website for air travelers.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and airport officials touted the site as the first of its kind. The site, hosted in China to boost its performance for Chinese customers, features flight-tracking information and other information for Chinese visitors, including public transit options and restaurant and shopping guides.
"San Francisco is a city of innovation," Lee said in a statement, "and we are proud to be the first airport in the U.S. to offer a website in Chinese."
The site is welcome if overdue, said Burlingame Mayor Michael Brownrigg, who served as a diplomat in China in the 1990s and worked for more than a decade as a venture capitalist investing in Chinese companies. This summer he led a delegation of 12 Bay Area mayors to China on a 10-day trip organized by China Silicon Valley. Chinese business leaders are more eager than ever, Brownrigg said, to expand their presence in the United States.
"China wants to be here, and we heard that message loud and clear," he said. "SFO is the most natural gateway in the world for that opportunity."
One of the airlines that stands to benefit from the new website is Air China, which operates a daily flight between SFO and Beijing. The airline has increased its passenger load between China and the U.S. by 40 percent over the past year, said Liang Han, the airline's San Francisco sales manager. She said the new site will likely be "very helpful" for Chinese travelers.
SFO operates 59 flights a week to China, said airport spokesman Doug Yakel. Nearly 4.4 million passengers used SFO to travel between Asia and the Middle East last fiscal year, an increase of 13.5 percent over the past five years. Half those destinations were in China, including Taiwan.
Yakel said the new website -- www.flysfo.cn -- cost $90,000 to design. The airport can use the format, he said, to create more foreign sites in the future.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.