Chi­nese pass UK tourists in Van­cou­ver

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

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.”

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