BRAZIL'S national airline, VARIG, has found a surprising market source for leisure travellers - China. Growth is such that the airline's regional chief, Rino Vitale, has appointed a sales manager for the mainland - Chinese-Brazilian Eliza Lo, who moved to the land of the lambada with her parents 20 years ago. Mr Vitale says the VARIG twice-a-week service from Hongkong to Rio de Janeiro via Bangkok, Johannesburg and Sao Paolo, which started in January, is doing ''slightly better than expected''. But business from the rare Chinese leisure traveller has caught Mr Vitale by surprise. He says that although government delegations form most of the business from the north, leisure and business travellers are buying tickets in southern China. Because of the interest, Mr Vitale is thinking of posting Ms Lo to the mainland full time. ''The more I go to China now, the more potential I see there,'' he says. Two mainlanders recently bought round-the-world tickets with VARIG - a sign that times are rapidly changing. Although passenger capacity on the airline's Boeing 747-400 service is averaging between 45 and 50 per cent, the cargo-hold out of Hongkong is always fully booked. Most of the electronics, garments and watch parts are bought from manufacturers in Hongkong and Taiwan, but Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand also clamour for space. VARIG is considering using a 747-Combi aircraft to supply this demand. The airline has rights for three services a week and, in time, VARIG believes the Hongkong-Rio de Janeiro service could become its most profitable. THE Asia-Pacific connection is booming at Frankfurt Airport, says head of market planning Jean-Claude Higelin. Twelve of the region's major carriers use Germany's main airport, while two more, Seoul-based Asiana and either EVA Air or Mandarin Airlines from Taiwan, are set to join soon. Frankfurt is a major European passenger and cargo hub. Last year the airport handled 31.7 billion passengers and 1.1 million tonnes of cargo. Growth of seven per cent is expected this year, compared with more than nine per cent last. ''The Southeast Asia leisure market is growing rapidly in Germany,'' said Mr Higelin. There are now 26 direct flights a week from Frankfurt to the region's number one destination, Bangkok, while there are 18 weekly direct flights to Tokyo and 14 each to Hongkong and Singapore. HONGKONG was British Airways (BA) Cargo's shining star last year in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the airline's regional cargo chief, Denis Connolly. ''And we could have done even better had it not been for a shortage of capacity,'' he said. It makes a change to hear airline executives talking of under-capacity rather than over-capacity. ''We performed considerably better here than our target.'' Much of BA's business was freight and courier from southern China. Australian routes also did well. These successes more than made up for a six per cent decline in the Japanese cargo market. BA's decline, however, was modest compared with the overall Japanese market drop of 19 per cent. ''Airlines have been accustomed to success in Japan without having to work for it,'' said Mr Connolly. ''That is going to have to change in the future and the fact that we have identified that has resulted in our market losses being considerably less than the air cargo market at large.''