Chi­nese visa ap­pli­ca­tions to Canada up 51%

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By XIAO LIXIN in Bei­jing xi­aolixin@chi­

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

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