Canada faces challenges with new status to welcome Chinese visitors

VANCOUVER, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Canada needs to be "cautious" about developing its recently acquired Approved Destination Status(ADS) that allows Chinese tour groups to visit the country in providing a complete package to "get it right" and grow the business, according to local tourism officials.

On the occasion of a Canada-China business forum held here Tuesday, Albert Tseng, president of the Canadian Inbound Tourism Association, a non-governmental, non-profit group that works to increase inbound tourism, particularly from Asia Pacific, told Xinhua with the announcement that Canada had received ADS from China during Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to China earlier this month, tourism groups in Vancouver welcomed the news, but much work was still required to properly accommodate the visitors.

Speaking at the forum, Canadian International Trade Minister Stock well Day, who accompanied Harper on his inaugural visit to China, estimated that travel by Chinese to Canada would increase by up to 50 percent over the next five years.

Tseng told Xinhua the amount of Chinese tourists would indeed grow, but there were also challenges.

He cited language training, the need to produce a certified tour guide program to assist tourists, and to learn from the experience of the United States which received ADS in 2007.

Tseng said in America the competition for the Chinese tourists had become very stiff with the prices for tours, in some cases, cut in half after only one year of the country receiving the status. The cheap packages were not attractive to tour operators as they couldn't make much profit, if any, and the visitors buying them suffered.

"It creates a very bad taste for the tourists because they feel they've been mistreated. We don't want that happening in Canada at all. We've heard some bad comments from (Chinese) tourists visiting the U.S., saying they have been treated badly."

Last year, Canada received nearly 160,000 Chinese visitors, with just under 100,000 visiting British Columbia. Stephen Regan, president and CEO of the Council of Tourism Associations, told Xinhua by 2015 his group was predicting the amount of Chinese visitors could double if "everything works out and we get it right".

He added the opportunity for an influx of Chinese tourists was coming at the right time as visitors from the United States, along Canada's largest tourist market, had been on the decline for the past decade.

"This (ADS) is a key building block that we need to build on with air access, visitor rebate programs, visa processing. All the policies need to work. If it all works together we could see about a 15 percent annual growth, maybe 20 percent. In British Columbia we are currently at eight percent."

Regan said with British Columbia being the nearest province to China, a lot of visitors would be transitioning through to other Canadian destinations. He believed that the ADS would help on the tour side, but would also stimulate a lot of independent travel, incentive group travel and business travel. "We're excited. We think the bulk of the opportunity is on non-ADS travel."

Tseng predicted Toronto would get the biggest number of Chinese visitors as it was the country's largest city. In addition, Ontario was the birthplace of the legendary Dr. Norman Bethune, who has been widely respected in China for his commitment to and sacrifice for a cause that led to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

"There's a lot of Chinese immigrants here too. So we expect a lot of people coming for family visits," Tseng said, "It will appeal to Chinese that finally Canada has opened the door. We expect everything from five-star to budget travelers."

"The challenge for us is to make sure the growth is measured, it's sustainable and there's an emphasis on quality, not just necessarily quantity," he said.

"We need to make sure the inbound tour operators and the Chinese agents are well trained, knowledgeable, professional, properly regulated and properly governed. Our marketing associations need to do very good targeted marketing and attract visitors that will be higher yield."

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