BC lures Chinese tourists

Updated: 2015-02-12 05:49

By LI JING(China Daily Canada)

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BC lures Chinese tourists
A Chinese New Year Parade in Vancouver's Chinatown. Provided to China Daily

As the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb 19, draws close, the scramble to attract Chinese travelers is growing intense.

Canada's westernmost province, British Columbia, is betting on a series of Chinese New Year celebrations to woo Chinese tourists.

According to the Tourism Department of British Columbia, a Chinese New Year parade with 3,000 performers will take to the streets of Vancouver's Chinatown on Feb 22.

Vancouver boasts North America's third-largest Chinatown by population, smaller only than San Francisco and New York. More than 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the parade, which will feature a variety of performances, from lion dancers to motorcycle drill teams and local bands.

Adjacent to Chinatown, a Chinese New Year temple fair will also be held the same day at the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first full-scale Ming Dynasty-style garden built outside China, which will feature performances of the Chinese tea ceremony, tai chi and Chinese folk music and dances.

From Feb 20 to 22, a lantern festival will light up the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza, where a wall structure will be erected, allowing people to experiment with their own lantern creations and add them to the collection. An installation will also be built by local artists to mark the Year of the Ram.

In addition to Vancouver, Richmond, home to Canada’s largest percentage per capita of Chinese descendants, will be steeped in Chinese New Year traditions, including decorations, treats and reunion feasts.

The International Buddhist Temple in Richmond will feature a bazaar from Feb 14-19 where visitors can view elaborate flower arrangements, enjoy traditional foods and buy good luck gifts.

British Columbia’s tourism department has chosen to brand its latest campaignNext Stop, a Brand New Year targetingChinese travelers heading overseas to celebrate Spring Festival.

Spring Festival, also known as Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in China. Traditionally it’s been a time when people across the country travel to their hometowns and spend time with their families and close friends.

However, as standards of living and incomes have risen in China, a growing number of families are opting to celebrate the holiday by traveling to foreign destinations.

"Travel to overseas destinations is growing in recent years," said Li Mengran, a public relations specialist at Beijing UTour International Travel Service. "Warm islands, countries in the Southern Hemisphere and off-the-beaten-track destinations like Sri Lanka, are hit destinations among Chinese travelers.

"Winter is not a usual high season for Canada due to its landscapes and locations. However, tourism boards are seeking to tap the potential and Chinese-themed activities will help boost the growth," Li said.

The ease of acquiring visas has also bolstered travel ambitions. A statement from the White House said Chinese travelers cite easing of visa policies as the second-most important factor in deciding where to travel, behind cost. This is reflected in the fact that tourism from China increased after the Beijing government gave Canada an "Approved Destination Status" in 2010 and Canada granted Chinese visitors 10-year visas in 2014.

BC lures Chinese tourists

From Feb 20 to 22, a lantern festival will light up the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza. Provided to China Daily

The latest data from the Canadian Tourism Commission showed that Chinese tourists to Canada as of last November reached 425,856, a 29.5 percent growth compared to the previous year. China is the third-largest offshore source of tourists to the country, after the United Kingdom at 631,494 and France at 450,952.

Chinese tourists often focus on traditional locales and cities like Vancouver where there are more Chinese-language services, according to Rob Taylor, a vice-president at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

Last November alone, 10,315 Chinese visited British Columbia, among the 20,071 Chinese travelers to Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

"Metro Vancouver (in British Columbia) is the top spot in Canada for Chinese tourists to visit because the city combines a large, established Chinese community with renowned scenic splendor and natural beauty; the flight time to Vancouver from China is also short relative to other Canadian locations," said Duncan Chiu, an associate with the Vancouver office of HVS, a hotel consulting firm.

Tourism officials also say the average Chinese tourist is now more independent and discerning than before. While a guided bus tour is still the most popular way to take in the country, Chinese visitors are now increasingly booking ski trips, wildlife tours, sporting holidays and culinary vacations.