Chinese travelers to Canada up 15.5 pct in 2012
Updated: 2013-05-31 09:41
Vancouver -- Canada's designation as an Approved Destination Status (ADS) nation is paying dividends for the country's travel sector as more than 273,000 Chinese tourists visited it in 2012, a 15.5-percent jump over the previous year.
According to new figures released recently by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), the national tourism marketing arm, China has become Canada's fastest growing market for visitors since the country received the ADS designation in June 2010.
In 2011, the first full year of ADS, Canada received 236,700 Chinese visitors.
Last year, Chinese tourists, staying an average of 29.8 nights, collectively spent 485.5 million Canadian dollars (466.7 million U.S. dollars), up 19.2 percent year-on-year.
Apart from the neighboring United States, traditionally Canada's largest tourism market, the number of Chinese tourists to Canada stood at 4th after Britain (597,000 visitors), France (422,800) and Germany (276,600).
Greg Klassen, the CTC's senior vice-president, marketing strategy and communications, called the numbers encouraging with the significant increase in both the volume of travelers from China and the amount of money they were spending while abroad.
"We expect the same this year as well. We think that it will eventually slow down, but we do know that the Chinese interest in travel outbound will reach about 100 million travelers by the year 2020, and we want a piece of that," he said.
"It"s a pretty significant contribution they're making to Canada's tourism economy, which of course includes ad hoc shopping, hotels, restaurants and those kinds of things."
According to the World Tourism Organization, a UN agency, Chinese tourists abroad, about 83 million in total, spent a record 102 billion U.S. dollars last year, surpassing the Germans as the largest spenders in international tourism.
For many Chinese abroad buying high-end luxury goods that are often less expensive than at home, or perhaps unavailable, is the target of their purchases.
"And they are really following many other Asian cultures who have come to Canada," said Klassen, who noted the average Chinese visitor to the country in 2012 spent 1,777 Canadian dollars, up 3.2 percent year-on-year.
"So the Chinese are no different from that and our understanding and research tell us that they do save up a fair bit of money so that when they do take that trip they have that luxury goods memento of that experience."
To make travel to Canada easier for Chinese travelers, Klassen said the CTC has been working closely with the Canadian embassy in Beijing to streamline the visa process to encourage more people to visit. In the past, the process has often been lengthy and difficult.
"I think the numbers can double. I think they'll slow down a little bit. You know the accelerated pace has been quite fast, but I think we'll be looking at minimum 10 percent growth over the next five years," he said.
"They could come close to doubling (in five years). Again, it is up to us to help ensure that we continue to create, develop and animate the experiences that the Chinese are looking for," he added.
While communication can be a barrier for Chinese traveling in a country where the official languages are French and English, Klassen felt Canada had a "competitive advantage" as the country has more than 1.4 million Canadians of Chinese descent.
With Cantonese largely spoken in the major centers of Toronto and Vancouver, Mandarin is quickly gaining ground with the wave of immigrants to the country from China's mainland over the past two decades.
"We have so many overseas Chinese, Mandarin-speaking Chinese here in Canada. We have the kinds of food that they (Chinese travelers) are looking for, and we have the kinds of support at both the hotel levels, the restaurant levels, the shopping levels where we can accommodate the Mandarin language," Klassen said.
"But again, more and more needs to be done. I understand that the Chinese (travelers) are looking for home-based television programs that they can watch, and I think as our industry learns more about how to accommodate the Chinese it just simply makes sense for us to do that."