New direct flights between Hong Kong and Britain have landed business leaders there with a problem - how to get their hands on enough Putonghua speakers in Manchester. Cathay Pacific last week launched a four-flights-a-week service between the two cities that is hoped to bring economic benefits to both. Managers at Britain's biggest shopping mall, the Trafford Centre, have been preparing for the influx of Chinese visitors by teaching staff the language. And now they are on the lookout for more Putonghua speakers as they attempt to show that the English city has more to offer than its famous soccer teams. The first non-stop flight from Manchester took off last Monday, making it the first airport outside London to offer a non-stop direct route to China. Chinese tourists already represent 50 per cent of Manchester's income from tax-free shopping, spending an average of £677 (HK$8,250) per transaction last year. And with the new flights that figure is set to soar. Such is the spending power of the Chinese that the city's Harvey Nichols and Selfridges stores have installed China UnionPay terminals so people can pay with mainland credit cards. And at the 180,000-square-metre Trafford Centre, 9.5km west of the city centre and close to Manchester United's Old Trafford home, 40 per cent of tax-free sales came from Chinese tourists last year. "Over the last few years, we've seen a steady increase in the number of overseas visits from China," said Richard Paxton, the centre's general manager. He hopes the centre can achieve accreditation under the China Welcome programme run by tourism promotion body VisitBritain. "We'll be launching a number of initiatives to ensure that the Chinese shopper receives a warm welcome," Paxton said. "This includes translating our centre guide and key website pages to Mandarin - plus we've started a recruitment drive to find Mandarin-speaking members of the team." Manchester Airport, the UK's third-biggest, carries nearly 22 million passengers a year to more than 200 destinations. As well as giving Hongkongers direct access to the northwest of England - which has a host of world-class universities as well as tourist attractions - the 12-hour flights have created 200 jobs. It is also a major shot in the arm for the £800 million Airport City project, an enterprise zone being created, in part, with investment from the Beijing Construction and Engineering Group. Charlie Cornish, CEO of Manchester Airports Group, led a three-year campaign to secure the link, which he described as "incredibly important". Angus Barclay, general manager for Europe at Cathay, said: "Cathay Pacific offers passengers even more choice and flexibility and, at the same time, will boost Manchester's standing as an international hub … "The Manchester route provides a real opportunity to help stimulate economic growth in the northwest [of England]."