HONOLULU — China’s Hainan Airlines has received approval to begin service from Beijing to Hawaii.

The U.S. Department of Transportation approved the flights, which initially will be once-a-week. The trips probably will not begin until early next year.

The airline, which is privately owned, already flies four times a week from China to Seattle.

State tourism officials are lauding the approval. They hope the flights will bring more visitors to Hawaii, where tourism has fallen sharply in the last year or so.

State statistics show that Hawaii welcomed about 10,000 visitors a year from China in the early 1990s. That jumped to almost 30,000 by 1998 and approached 60,000 last year.