Canada has welcomed its first official leisure tourists from China this week, after Asia's economic powerhouse granted approved destination status to Canada earlier this summer.
"Several hundred" Chinese tourists arrived in Vancouver on Wednesday, the Canadian Tourism Commission said in a statement, after a group of 18 Chinese tourists landed in Victoria, B.C. on Monday.
Treasury Board President Stockwell Day and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell were on hand at the Vancouver airport to officially greet one group, which included a delegation from the China National Tourism Administration.
Day said that he was "delighted" to welcome the visitors, calling it an "important day for the Canadian tourism industry." He added that Beijing's decision means that "doors are opening to attract even more visitors" from the East Asian country.
As China's economy has grown, tourism there has become a hot industry, and many are choosing to travel abroad. However, a country needs approved destination status in order for China's tourism companies to organize group tours there.
Other countries such as Australia have enjoyed approved destination status for years. In Canada's case, the agreement comes as Ottawa's sometimes frigid diplomatic relations with Beijing appear to be thawing.
The decision also means that Canadian tourism businesses, eager to target the growing ranks of international tourists from China, can now promote their products there.
"I think more and more people will go to Canada," one travel agent in Beijing told CTV News. "Formerly, this would have been very difficult for them."
According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, travellers from China injected $260.6 million into the Canadian economy in 2009.
Campbell said he expects that 10 per cent more tourists to visit B.C. from China this year, and 15 per cent more in 2011 and 2012.
The tourism commission believes the growth potential from Chinese visitors is enormous. More than 45 million people from China left the country in 2009 to travel. That number is projected to reach 100 million people by 2020, according to the Chinese government.