Chinese pass UK tourists in Vancouver
Vancouver has always been a premier tourist destination and now visitors from China are helping to make this important sector even more of an economic growth engine for the city and the whole province of British Columbia.
Last month Tourism Vancouver, the city’s tourism marketing association, revealed that nearly 210,000 overnight visitors from China are expected to stay in Vancouver this year. That will represent an increase of 15.1 percent from last year and also means that for the first time visitors from China will exceed those from the UK. In 2013, the city welcomed nearly 172,000 UK tourists.
Stephen Pearce, vice-president of leisure travel and digital marketing for Tourism Vancouver, said that while the city’s huge Chinese community is a major factor in driving visits from China, Vancouver is making inroads in luring Chinese visitors to the city for business and leisure or recreation. The Chinese account for about 18.2 percent of the metro area’s population of 2.1 million, according to Statistics Canada.
According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, 55 percent of Chinese trips to Canada were for pleasure or to visit friends and relatives in 2011.
“Certainly a large number of Chinese tourists are coming to visit family and friends. But our marketing programs are beginning to make Vancouver a vacation destination,” said Pearce.
Pearce said China tourism began to accelerate in 2010 when the city received Approved Destination Status (ADS) from the Chinese government. “This allowed us to market directly to the Chinese consumer,” he said.
Roy Chou, general manager of inbound business at Vancouver tour company TPI Silkway, has been arranging tours for Chinese visitors in the area for 15 years. He agrees with Pearce that the ADS designation spurred Chinese travel to Vancouver.
“In 2009, TPI had 570 people from China come to Vancouver. Last year, we had over 6,200, so the ADS really opened the doors,” he said.
Chou said about 90 percent of the Chinese tourists that TPI accommodates come in tour groups and are referred to his firm from three partner tour operators in China.
Chou notes that not only do Chinese tourists have to endure a long trip to Vancouver, it is also very expensive. “A 10-day, 10-night itinerary including airfare and accommodations costs at least 15,000 yuan (C$2,660). A similar trip to the US would cost about 12,000 yuan.”
Chou said about 70 percent to 80 percent of the tourists he books from China come to Vancouver for leisure or to visit family or friends. The rest come to check out educational opportunities for themselves or their children or to look for housing and a job if they are planning a move to the area.
A very popular destination for Chinese tourists is Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a 988-acre natural West Coast rainforest with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, mountains and majestic trees.
“Stanley Park is such a beautiful and natural place,” said Chou. “Most Chinese do not have access to such a large and natural area that is teaming with birds and wildlife.”
Chou said he is also seeing an increase in bookings for Canada’s remote Yukon and Northwest Territories (north of Vancouver) as visitors want to experience the aurora borealis, or northern lights.
Pearce believes that Chinese tourism is responding to Tourism Vancouver’s marketing outreach.
“We recently launched a revised Chinese language version of our website that contains information on obtaining tourist visas along with travel tips and images,” he said. “For the past two years, we have enhanced our marketing strategy in China by featuring the celebrated Chinese singer/songwriter Wanting Qu. She is our tourism ambassador in China and has a second home in the city. I think she has helped to create a real stimulus for us.”