Zhangjiajie-China "Avatar" City to Have Int'l Airport

Construction of an international airport has started in Zhangjiajie City, famous for its world natural heritage site Wulingyuan, announced the Hunan Airport Group on Wednesday.

Expected to open in 2015, the Lotus International Airport will be the second international airport in the central China's Hunan province.

Located in the mountainous western part of Hunan, Zhangjiajie is home to the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, recognized as China's first national forest park in 1982.

The floating pillar-like formations and dense foliage in Zhangjiajie appeared in Hollywood blockbuster "Avatar" in 2010, which has further boosted its reputation as an international tourist destination.

To cater to the tourist boom, the new airport has been designed to handle 5 million tourists a year, in addition to 19,000 tonnes of cargoes and mails.

The current Lotus Airport built in 1994 only handles domestic flights.By 2015 and after a planned investment of 535 million yuan (87 million U.S. dollars), the new airport will cover a total area of 59,532 square meters, and be able to handle 45,000 flights a year.

It is also expected to shore up economic development in Zhangjiajie's surrounding regions, where 71 counties are on China's poverty-stricken list.