Chinese visa applications to Canada up 51%
As many as 15,000 visa applications to visit Canada have been submitted by Chinese citizens in the first month of 2015, a year-on-year surge of 51 percent, thanks to the depreciation of the Canadian dollar and a more convenient visa application process.
The depreciation, which increases the purchasing power of Chinese currency, has prompted Chinese tourists to choose Canada as an overseas travel destination for extended holidays, starting with the justended Spring Festival.
January is generally the coldest month of the year in Canada, and hence has usually garnered the fewest number of visa applications from Chinese travelers.
This past January, however, saw an increase.
“We are very surprised because the growth is far beyond our expectations,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s ambassador to China.
In response to the rising number of visa applications, the Canadian Embassy in Beijing has requested temporary staff from the federal government with the goal of increasing approved visas by 50 percent.
Since Feb 6, Canada has upgraded single-entry visas to multiple-entry for visitors from China, extended the length of the visa’s validity to a 10-year maximum and lowered the application fee from 150 Canadian dollars to 100. With the multiple-entry visa, eligible Chinese visitors would not only find it easier to travel in the country, but can also stay in Canada for a maximum of six months each visit.
The improved visa policy is one of the main reasons why Canada has been among the top outbound travel destinations for Chinese independent tourists and travel agencies.
Industry experts says travel agencies should design new travel routes, especially during the prime weeks of National Day and Chinese New Year.
The latest figures from the Canadian Tourism Commission show that during the first 11 months of 2014, the surge in Chinese visitors to Canada was so large it outpaced the doubledigit increase in the number of tourists from Japan, South Korea, Mexico and India.
Among last year’s 4.65 million international tourists to British Columbia, as many as 256,000 were from the Chinese mainland, an increase of 26.2 percent over 2013.
Apart from the natural scenery and seasoned tourism facilities in British Columbia, the depreciation of the Canadian currency is a significant factor that attracts more Chinese visitors to travel and spend in the province, according to Ian Robertson, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia.
Zhang Qing, director of Tianbao Travel also noted a gradual increase in Chinese visitors heading to Canada during long public holidays in recent years.
“The truth is, many Chinese visitors have done the calculation before the trip and prefer Canada to the US given the stronger (US) dollar,” Zhang said.
A totem pole