B.C. tourism sector worried as Canada left off China’s green list for group tours
British Columbia’s tourism industry is raising concerns after Canada was left off China’s list of approved countries for tour groups.
Last week, the government of China released its list of countries with ‘Approved Destination Status,” lifting its pandemic ban on group tours.
The United States and Australia are among the approved countries, but Canada was conspicuously absent.
The move could have worrying consequences for B.C.’s tourism sector as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Statistics Canada, about 750,000 Chinese tourists came to Canada in 2018, spending an estimated $2 billion.
Destination B.C. estimates nearly half of those tourists came to B.C. that year. Statistics from the tourism group reported 333,000 Chinese visitors in 2018, up from just 131,000 in 2011.
“What it means is it will be much more difficult for Chinese tourists to get access to come and spend their dollars here,” travel consultant Claire Newell told Global News. “It’s already impacting the Canadian tourism industry because there aren’t as many flights as there previously were.”
China began lifting group travel restrictions in January, with Russian and Thailand included in its first wave of approvals. France and Brazil were among about 40 countries approved this spring.
Royce Chwin, president and CEO of Destination Vancouver called China’s decision “disappointing.”
“It will have some impact for tourism for sure, at the height of the Chinese market coming to Vancouver we had over 60 flights a week. We’re now down to only two carriers operating out of Vancouver, so in the immediate term there is an impact, it could have more of an impact over the longer term,” he said.
“The Chinese market is critical to Vancouver’s tourism economy.”
The decision to leave Canada off the list of approved destinations comes amid a charged political atmosphere between the two countries, spurred by allegations China tried to interfere in Canadian elections.
“Lately, the Canadian side has repeatedly hyped up the so called “Chinese interference,” and rampant and discriminatory anti-Asian acts and words are rising significantly in Canada,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement to Global News.
The statement went on to cite the importance of “protecting the safety and legitimate rights” of Chinese citizens overseas and say China “wishes they can travel in a safe and friendly environment.”
Chwin said B.C. tourism operators want to see the Tourism Industry Association of Canada lead a campaign to get Canada’s status restored.
“China has been a very important market for Canada,” he said. “Approved destination status allows us to support our tour operators here working in the China market, so we’d like to see a return of approved status,” he said.
— With files from the Canadian Press
by Global News