Saturday, May 12, 2018
Canada's Northwest Territories: sees increased Chinese investment
Canada's Northwest Territories:
sees increased Chinese tourism and investment
The Chinese are moving into the NW Territories
VANCOUVER, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The leader of Canada's Northwest Territories (NWT) said Wednesday his recent visit to China would help the vast but remote region attract more investment from the world's second largest economy.
In an interview with Xinhua following an 11-day trip in China, NWT Premier Bob McLeod said the main purpose of his trade mission was to strengthen the relationship with his Chinese counterparts, promote the region's fur products and tourism, and woo investment in mining, oil and gas.
"I think we had a very good discussion with a much better understanding. We had some specific meetings on investment and specific mining projects and I think we're very close," he said.
"They indicated they wanted to come up here for their own purposes, or reconnaissance kind of thing, but it looks like we're very close," McLeod said.
With a 1.17-million-square km area and a population of only 45,000, the NWT's abundance of natural resources is virtually untapped. In a bid to diversify the area's economy in an environmentally sustainable way, the NWT Mineral Development Strategy was created in November to revitalize mineral exploration and development.
McLeod said that, with a landscape rich in diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, lead and base metals, several mines had received regulatory approval from the government and were looking for investment.
Another huge area of potential is oil and gas. Not including its offshore resources, the NWT has an estimated 81.2 trillion cubic feet (2.3 trillion cubic meters) of natural gas and nearly 7 billion barrels of oil.
"On oil and gas, when we were there (in China) the smog was a real problem. They were very open; they recognize they have a real problem and the way to deal with it, they see it, is to start converting to more oil and gas and alternative and renewable forms of energy," McLeod said.
"So they're very interested in our oil and gas. The big concern for them is the transportation routes," he said.
With the main thrust of his trade mission being to provide more information about what the NWT has to offer to potential investors, McLeod was encouraged that some Chinese were making the effort to come and see the remote area themselves.
Statistics released by the Canadian Tourism Commission show 273,000 Chinese visited Canada in 2012, up 15.5 percent from a year earlier. While few are going north, McLeod said more than 1,200 Chinese were expected to visit the territory this year.
"(Due to) the fact that this year we're going to have over 1,200 Chinese visitors, (and) the fact that we're working a concerted effort to do business with China, I think it's going to put us in good stay," he said.
McLeod believes the N.W.T. has much to offer Chinese immigrants, “and many of those immigrants are focused on investment.”
"We're interested in increasing the population of the Northwest Territories," McLeod says. "Just think: thousands of people coming to the Northwest Territories investing significant amounts of money. That would be quite an improvement to our economy."
Yellowknife business owner and Hong Kong native Angela Law says it's about time the territory and Chinese recognize what the North has to offer. She runs Yellowknife Tours with her husband and daughter. Last year, they offered tours to more than 700 visitors, many of whom came from China.
Law says she doesn't understand why most Chinese immigrants flock to Vancouver.
“Even if they are computer specialist, doctors, highly educated… they have no job,” Law says.
But immigration lawyer Raj Sharma says wealthy Chinese immigrants are looking for big city amenities — something the North doesn't offer.
“If the N.W.T. wants to build its population, it will not need the affluent rich Chinese who will naturally gravitate to mainland Vancouver.”
Sharma says the N.W.T. would be better offer attracting temporary foreign workers and international students who've just graduated from Canadian universities.
Statistics Canada figures show Chinese are one of the territories' smallest immigrant groups, accounting for about five per cent of its immigrant population.
"You have tens of thousands of foreign workers and international students already in Canada. It boggles the imagination why the N.W.T. wouldn't seek out those individuals," Sharma says.
McLeod will travel with about 10 staffers at a total cost to the taxpayer of about $300,000.
He says the cost is worth it.
"These economies are built on trust and getting to know each other," McLeod says. "We certainly recognize that every time we go there we get better reception. People talk much more openly about issues.”
This will be McLeod's fifth visit to China. The group will also visit Japan, marking McLeod`s second visit to that country.
McLeod says the territorial government will finalize its China Strategy on the trip.
They group will fly to Beijing on Jan. 10 then on to Japan on Jan. 17, returning to Canada Jan. 21.
Liang Chen, who was born in Beijing and learns about tourism as part of his role as managing director of Northern Gateway Consulting Services, said Chinese travellers are experienced travellers and they will want to participate in the customs and culture of the North.
He said other ways to prepare for Chinese tourists are bringing in interpreters, making sure tour equipment is up to date and keeping in mind what Chinese people are used to.
"When a Chinese patron goes to eat at a restaurant, almost no Chinese [people] will drink ice water. They always expect something hot, a hot beverage. So, you know, just simple things like that," he said.
Chen said a Chinese guest will probably prefer instant noodles as a gift, over chocolate and water.
Winfred Gatsi, who is the marketing director for Arctic Tours Canada, said the Yellowknife company is forced to hire Mandarin and Cantonese interpreters only as demanded by Chinese tour companies.
He says that will make it easier for their guests to adapt in Canada, and learn Canadian practices.
"It also helps us to learn how they do their own things and what they expect when they do visit our territory," he said.
Wally Schumann, the N.W.T. minister of Industry, Tourism and Infrastructure, said the government is preparing for the Canada-China Year of Tourism by placing emphasis on safety and making sure that every tour operator has a safety plan going forward.
He says he hopes that the Canada-China Year of Tourism will help the territory's tourism industry bring in more than $207 million, which was one of the goals in the territory's Tourism 2020 plan.
Yukon is also expecting hoards of Chinese tourists. Around 3,500 Chinese citizens visit the Yukon every year and according to Tourism Yukon it's a growing market with a lot of potential.
"China is the holy grail in a way, especially for North American provinces, territories and states that are on the West Coast. It is a massive market and so even a tenth of a percentage point of the market [is a] huge number of travellers," said Robin Anderson of Tourism Yukon.
Tour operators in Yukon are also prepping for the influx. The Arctic Colour Lodge, which focuses on winter tourism, has seen increased interest from Chinese travellers and is catering to the Chinese by offering tours in Mandarin by Chinese guides only.