China key to tourism growth

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By Ryan Williams, A Quinte-ssential state of mind

“Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time. — Chinese proverb.”

There is no surprise that China has emerged as one of the world’s superpowers. As China transitions itself from communism to some capital economic growth, Canada is recognizing its potential as a big trading partner.

China is a potentially huge economic driver for the Bay of Quinte region with our tourism, worth to be over $4 million a year in the next decade.

This week’s visit by M.P. Daryl Kramp with a large delegation led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper has Canada’s eyes squarely on the prize of China.

Besides obtaining the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China, something Europe or U.S. has yet to obtain, the first announcement made by Harper in the Great Nation was a tourism announcement.

On Wednesday, Harper launched the Canadian Tourism Commission’s new 2012 tourism marketing campaign, which will promote tourism in Canada by showcasing the many wonders and experiences our country has to offer.

Chinese Tourism to Canada is an economic benefit, and as I see it, a potential for the Bay of Quinte region to benefit tremendously.

Our fishing, our incredible golf courses and waterways, Prince Edward County’s wineries, our theatres, provincial parks, rich Aboriginal culture and history, and our location on a VIA Rail station stop halfway between Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal are the reason we will excel among the rest.

From an average of 200,000 Chinese who travelled to Canada in 2008, statistics from the Canadian Tourism Commission show 2011 saw more than 350,000 Chinese tourists to Canada – a 175 per cent increase. At this rate, China will overtake our No. 1 overseas tourists, the UK at 630,000 and France at 430,000, in no time.

The reason for China’s growth is that in December 2009 Canada obtained Approved Destination Status (ADS) from China, a designation making it easier for Chinese nationals to visit Canada.

This means Chinese tourist organizations do not have to jump through hoops to get to Canada, and it means more tourists, more money, and more opportunity — particularly for areas like Bay of Quinte.

The average Chinese tourist spends more than 28 nights and $1,800, which means already China is a $630 million industry to Canada.

For Bay of Quinte, for a very moderate goal of 5,000 Chinese tourists per year, for an average stay of two nights, this would mean more than $4 million to our region.

We will do this better because of another headline over the past year: the new proposed link from Pearson International Airport and Union station in Toronto slated to be finished in 2015.

This link will allow us to attract tourists who land nationally and internationally directly to our brand new $14 million VIA Rail station in Belleville.

This will serve as a very real growth area in our tourism over the next decade, particularly as we focus on increased tour groups and Chinese tourist presence.

I met with Kramp last week and brought up the subject of Chinese tourism. My interest has come from meeting key officials from Hong Kong about their interest in having Chinese students enrolled in Toronto schools take summer tourism classes in our region and work as placement students in our hotels.

This is remarkable because we are putting the horse before the cart; form before function; not waiting for the duck to roast itself.

Daryl, from China, Tweeted this to me this week: “If we got one per cent of their tourism, we couldn’t handle it. Unbelievable opportunity here, pumping our local at every opportunity.”

Great work Daryl, and let’s look forward to saying ??’ [nín hao] very soon in Bay of Quinte.

Ryan Williams is President of the Bay of Quinte Tourist Council (www.bayofquintecountry.com), a director on RTO 9: The Great Waterway (www.thegreatwaterway.com) and General Manager of Best Western with Williams Hotels in Belleville.

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