Chinese visitors stampede to ‘the best country in the world’
Canada a big draw among the 5.2 million Chinese who travel abroad to celebrate the annual festival
FEBRUARY 5, 2016
The world’s most impressive mass movement of people happens over the Lunar New Year. During this period, mind-boggling numbers of Chinese travel to join distant family members to celebrate the Spring Festival.
The Economist estimates the number of trips on public transport by Chinese in China at 2.9 billion. Of those, 5.2 million will travel abroad.
One popular destination is Canada, which, according to The Reputation Institute, a leading global research firm, is the “best country in the world”.
Chinese visitors to Vancouver increased rapidly after Canada was granted approved-destination status by China in 2010. “In 2014, China surpassed the UK to become Vancouver’s second largest international tourism market (after the United States),” says Allen Liu of Vancouver Tourism. The city’s spectacular setting, integrated Asian culture, and wellness lifestyle, “inspire Asian tourists to visit Vancouver for sightseeing, shopping, studying and visiting friends and relatives.”
It’s a strong upward trend. In 2015, Vancouver welcomed over 700,000 visitors from Asia, an increase of five per cent over 2014.
“Richmond is an attractive year-round destination for Asian travellers,” Tourism Richmond CEO Tracy Lakeman says. “Our proximity to Vancouver International Airport, large Asian population, and authentic culture make us a natural fit for travellers celebrating the Lunar New Year, as well as those looking to experience Canada for the first time.”
continued on next page
Sue Wang, a 23-year-old student in the Master of Global Business program at the University of Victoria, understands that appeal.
“I love Canada,” says Wang, who has family in Zhengzhou, Henan in central China, as well as Vancouver. “This land is vast, the air is clean, the pace of life is calm, and people are friendly.”
A 2014 report released by HVS, an international consulting firm serving the hospitality industry, states Chinese demand for access to this country is strong, as Canada has the most direct flights from China next to the U.S., around 75 flights per week.
Of all overseas visitors to Richmond in 2015, 51 per cent were from Asia, 40 per cent were from Europe and nine per cent were from other international countries. A total of 37 per cent of Asia/Pacific leisure visitors were from China, 21 per cent were from Hong Kong, 12 per cent were from Australia and six per cent were from Japan or Taiwan. The rest were from the Philippines, South Korea, New Zealand, India or Singapore.
By the end of 2016, the Chinese tourism market is projected to bring 1.5 million visitors to Canada.
The HVS report notes the average length of stay for Chinese tourists is 14 nights, with average total spending of just over $1,800 per trip. B.C. is the region of choice for most of these Chinese who favour travel to Vancouver and Victoria. Many go on to visit Banff, Toronto and Montreal. While in B.C., Chinese tourists participate in viewing wildlife, adventure experiences, and the Northern Lights.
“Hotels and tourism businesses need to tailor their service and products by offering culturally attuned amenities that make Asian guests feel at ease,” Liu says. Guest rooms may feature such items as slippers, tea kettles, assorted Chinese tea, Chinese snacks, chopsticks, Chinese TV programs and newspapers. Chinese signs and Chinese-speaking staff are also provided in some malls, hotels, and retail stores, especially in Richmond and Burnaby.
This is simply good business, observes Wang, who will be studying international marketing and global strategy as part of her program.
She’s happy that Chinese New Year falls on B.C. Family Day. “It’s really all about being with family to celebrate. Decorations. The little red envelopes with lucky money, and of course, piles of special dumplings. We talk, stuff ourselves with food, then stay up late to watch the CCTV (Central China Television) broadcast of the Spring Festival Gala.” Think Times Square extravaganza, Chinese style.
For Wang, it’s the best of both worlds. “I experience all the fun of Chinese New Year without the jet lag.”