Canada begins building bridges to Chinese travellers
With Canada having finally won approved-destination status for Chinese visitors, Canadian officials are moving on to building bridges to China at the highest levels.
Federal Minister of Small Business and Tourism Rob Moore is in Shanghai and Beijing this week leading a delegation
“The reason why it’s so important is because relationship-building is extremely important [in doing business in China] and the Chinese appreciate that relationship-building at the ministerial level,” Moore said in an interview.
He will be joined on the visit by Kevin Krueger, British Columbia’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, ministers from Manitoba, P.E.I. and Newfoundland, deputy ministers from other provinces and territories, and industry representatives.
They have a busy agenda, which will include high-level meetings with the Chinese National Tourism Association and events both at Canada’s pavilion in the Shanghai World Expo and at a tourism showcase being set up by the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Previously, Chinese could visit Canada on business, to visit family or as part of incentive tours. Approved-destination status (ADS), however, allows Canada to market itself in China to all potential visitors.
“We want to show one voice,” Moore said. “We’re all going over there to promote Canada and promote all the provinces.”
And the potential payoff is significant, with China’s growing middle class promising to send an increasing number of Chinese visitors abroad to take their vacations.
Moore said estimates are that Chinese outbound tourism will increase by 50 per cent over the next several years.
Stephen Regan, CEO of the Council of Tourism Associations of B.C. (COTA B.C.) said securing a share of that growth is important for Canada, which has seen a 10-year slide in visits from the United States.
B.C. has already seen growth in tourism from China even before the first official ADS tour group landed here in July.
To the end of July, Canada saw 104,705 visitors, a 19-percent increase from the previous year, which vaulted it to fifth place among countries of origin for visitors to Canada, according to statistics from the Canadian Tourism Commission. From 2007 to 2009, China was eighth on that list.
Regan said the mammoth U.S. market is still Canada’s biggest source of visitors. The same 2010 Canadian Tourism Commission report showed some 6.3 million American tourists visited Canada to the end of July, but that was down 0.3 per cent from the same period a year ago.
“[U. S. visits] are 50 per cent down from 10 years ago,” Regan said. ” … the numbers from China are relatively small compared to [the U.S.], but the upside to that is they can be very significant over a long period of time, if we manage it well.”
He added that “nice steady growth, 10 to 15 per cent per year,” would be a good boost to the Canadian industry.
To that end, COTA B.C. is devoting a workshop at its annual conference Oct. 20-22 in Vancouver to a training session on how to host Chinese visitors.
Regan noted that before ADS, the Chinese coming to Canada would typically have had some support — either from family and friends or from the companies hosting them.
Under ADS, however, Canada can expect more visitors who don’t have that kind of support, Regan said, so Canadians have to be ready to be more accommodating.
Regan said that includes signage, having language capabilities to host Chinese who don’t speak much English and understanding cultural norms.
“We do not want to be a discount destination; we want to be a value destination,” he added. “[Chinese] are going to likely be paying a premium getting here and we want them to have a premium experience.”