WASHINGTON/OTTAWA — The first group of Chinese to visit Canada on tourist visas is expected to arrive by the end of August, following the signing of an agreement between the two countries on Thursday.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed the Approved Destination Status (ADS) agreement in Ottawa during Hu’s second state visit to Canada.
With less complicated visa processes, Chinese from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou will be the first sets of group travelers to Canada in late summer, Chris Jones, vice-president of public affairs of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), told China Daily after the signing.
“We expect the first Chinese group by the end of August as a few more procedures need to go through in the two countries,” he said.
“We are confident that the group visa process will work quite seamlessly. We are ready on our side (to greet Chinese leisure travelers).”
The association published a list of first 13 eligible leisure tour operators in Canada on Thursday.
Jones said there was also the possibility of more tours with the United States, which signed the ADS agreement with China on Dec 11, 2007.
In December last year, the ADS agreement was announced in principle during Harper’s first visit to China.
Chinese tourists have easier access to visas to travel in countries and regions that have signed ADS agreements with China.
So far, 135 countries and regions have signed the agreement with China. Canada and the US are among the last countries to get ADS status from China.
The ADS will allow Canada to market its tourism products in China and authorize Chinese travel agencies to market and promote leisure group tours in Canada.
“This is a great day for tourism in Canada, and a great day for travelers from China,” said David Goldstein, president and CEO of the TIAC.
By 2020, China is expected to be the world’s largest outbound market, producing 100 million outbound tourists, the World Tourism Organization said.
In 2008, visits to Canada by Chinese citizens were up 5.3 percent from the previous year to 159,000. Chinese travelers had the highest average length of stay (28 nights) in Canada and spent more than visitors from any other country ($1,648.51), TIAC said.
A Conference Board of Canada survey said the ADS is expected to boost travel to Canada from China by up to 50 per cent by 2015. It is estimated Chinese tourists will bring $95 million a year to Canada, Canadian media reported.
He believes Chinese visitors will like Canada’s natural beauty and friendliness, multicultural aspects of cities, respect for people of all ethnic backgrounds and cultures,
“It is potential for all parts of the country to prosper and benefit from the new market segment,” he said.
Canada is also home to Dr Norman Bethune (1890–1939), a physician who served with Chinese Liberation Army during World War II.
In anticipation of the increased travel demand, Air Canada said it would resume double daily services to Beijing and Shanghai in June, and planned to start flying to Guangzhou in 2013.
Air China and China Eastern Airlines have also added flights between the two countries.