Major South Korean airline Asiana is launching direct flights between Melbourne and Seoul in a move that will strengthen ties with a key trading partner and attract more tourists, business event delegates and investment to Victoria.

Asiana will launch a seasonal service from late December, with weekly flights in 290-seat A330 aircraft.

The Andrews Labor Government is partnering with Visit Victoria, Melbourne Airport, the City of Melbourne and the Consul-General of the Republic of Korea to support the trial season. If the season is successful, there is the potential for Asiana to establish ongoing flights between Melbourne Airport and Seoul, opening up new connections with a leading market for tourists, investors and international students.

Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade Martin Pakula announced the new flights after a meeting with business and government leaders during the annual Korea Festival in Melbourne at Federation Square.

South Korea is an important trading partner with Victoria, with two-way trade worth more than $3.2 billion.

Direct flights will help more major Korean businesses join those already operating in Victoria, which include dietary supplement manufacturer Nutribiotech, Kumho Tyres and major conglomerate Hanwha.

The Asian nation is a major source of tourists to Victoria, with more than 61,000 Korean visitors spending $145 million in Victoria in the 12 months to June. It is also one of the state’s fastest growing markets for international students, with numbers up 25 per cent in the past five years.

The Asiana flights come on the back of the recent announcement of Vietjet launching direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City from Avalon, joining major Malaysian carrier Air Asia X flying to Kuala Lumpur, and Cebu Pacific commencing direct flights from Melbourne Airport to Manila.

These new connections were part of the reason that the number of international visitors to Victoria rose 4.3 per cent last year, to 3.1 million. Spending by those visitors increased by 7.1 per cent, to $8.6 billion.

Tourism is a big employer in Victoria, supporting more than 232,000 jobs across the state.