CANADACHINA YEAR OF TOURISM A CHANCE TO EL­E­VATE BRAND CANADA

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - CNY2 -

With its wide-open spa­ces, clean en­vi­ron­ment, nat­u­ral beauty and mul­ti­cul­tural hubs, Canada has much to of­fer for Chi­nese trav­ellers, and declar­ing 2018 the Canada-China Year of Tourism aims to boost not only aware­ness of our coun­try as a travel des­ti­na­tion but also the num­ber of vis­i­tors. The goal? To dou­ble the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists com­ing to Canada by 2021.

Along with ed­u­ca­tion, tourism is a valu­able ex­port op­por­tu­nity for Canada, be­lieves Sarah Ku­tu­lakos, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Canada China Busi­ness Coun­cil. With over 1.8 mil­lion Cana­dian jobs re­lated to the tourism sec­tor and an an­nual $20-bil­lion con­tri­bu­tion from in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, tourism is al­ready an im­por­tant part of the econ­omy.

To build on this po­ten­tial and cap­i­tal­ize on the China-Canada con­nec­tion, Ku­tu­lakos sug­gests get­ting to know would-be vis­i­tors. “Ten years ago, Chi­nese tourists would typ­i­cally travel in tour groups, but to­day, we see more and more in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers. This cre­ates a mar­ket for more cus­tom­ized ex­pe­ri­ences,” she says.

The ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese trav­ellers are also ac­tive on­line, where they may find travel com­pan­ions, read about des­ti­na­tions and book their itin­er­ar­ies. E-com­merce plat­forms like JD and Alibaba, which are pop­u­lar in China, have cre­ated travel di­vi­sions to take ad­van­tage of this busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, says Ku­tu­lakos.

“Let’s cel­e­brate what we have to of­fer, en­cour­age tourists to come and make sure we have the in­fra­struc­ture,” she ad­vises. To some ex­tent, Canada al­ready has an ad­van­tage since Cana­di­ans with Chi­nese an­ces­try ac­count for 4.5 per cent of Canada’s pop­u­la­tion, and Man­darin and Can­tonese are the most spo­ken lan­guages after English and French. With 620,000 ar­rivals in 2017, China is Canada’s third largest mar­ket, the sec­ond largest in terms of tourist re­ceipts. And sta­tis­tics sug­gest that Canada is host­ing ap­prox­i­mately 186,000 Chi­nese stu­dents.

“Chi­nese liv­ing in Canada cer­tainly in­flu­ence their friends and fam­ily,” says Ku­tu­lakos. “And if you go to cer­tain ar­eas where tourists like to shop, like the Mink Mile on Bloor Street, you find Man­darin­speak­ing store clerks. But as more Chi­nese vis­i­tors come to Canada as in­di­vid­ual trav­ellers, they ac­cess dif­fer­ent parts of our com­mu­ni­ties, such as su­per­mar­kets, car rental

...to­day, we see more and more in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers. This cre­ates a mar­ket for more cus­tom­ized ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Sarah Ku­tu­lakos ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Canada China Busi­ness Coun­cil

agen­cies or AirBnB.”

This means busi­nesses have to be equipped to ac­cept their pay­ments. “In China, peo­ple rarely use cash or credit cards – they use mo­bile pay­ments like Ali­pay or WeChat Pay,” says Ku­tu­lakos. “There is a push to en­able such pay­ment ser­vices to ac­com­mo­date Chi­nese cus­tomers who are used to pay­ing with their phone and QR codes.”

A re­cent Aus­tralia China Busi­ness Coun­cil re­port can give an in­di­ca­tion of the po­ten­tial im­pact of Chi­nese tourism, says Ku­tu­lakos. “Aus­tralia has al­most dou­ble the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists com­pared to Canada, but there are many sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two coun­tries. Both are des­ti­na­tions for not only Chi­nese tourism but also for ed­u­ca­tion and real es­tate in­vest­ment,” she says. “In Aus­tralia, first-time vis­i­tors from China con­trib­uted about $5.3-bil­lion to the econ­omy. Based on a sur­vey of these vis­i­tors’ in­ten­tions to re­turn, to in­vest, to study and to con­sume Aus­tralian prod­ucts, there is po­ten­tial for an ad­di­tional $65.8-bil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact.”

And many Chi­nese vis­i­tors went home with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Aus­tralian of­fer­ings, says Ku­tu­lakos. “They said that be­cause they had gone to Aus­tralia, they would buy more Aus­tralian goods and ser­vices in China.”

Ku­tu­lakos hopes that “Brand Canada,” which is al­ready known for cer­tain food, bev­er­ages and cloth­ing (think Canada Goose jack­ets), will ben­e­fit from the Canada-China Year of Tourism, es­pe­cially when Chi­nese vis­i­tors have a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and per­haps share their rec­om­men­da­tions on so­cial me­dia. “The Aus­tralia poll says 73 per cent of first-time vis­i­tors were plan­ning to re­turn,” she says. “So we want to make the most of our vis­i­tors’ time in Canada.”

ISTOCK.COM

The Canada-China Year of Tourism aims to in­crease aware­ness of Cana­dian travel des­ti­na­tions as well as the num­bers of Chi­nese trav­ellers vis­it­ing them.

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