Recent trip by senior executives confirmed strong business relationships and strong alignment for this huge emerging market.
There’s no doubt that China is one of Canada’s most promising tourism markets. As such, it will play a major role in helping the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) meet its Federal Tourism Strategy commitments. Putting this market into context, Ryan Brain of Deloitte (speaking at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC)’s 2011 Tourism Congress) showed that if China maintained its current double-digit growth it would become Canada’s second largest tourism market—behind only the US—within 10 years.
As part of CTC’s ongoing work, Greg Klassen, CTC senior vice president, Marketing Strategy and Communications, and David Goldstein, TIAC CEO, have just completed a series of meetings in Beijing. They came away with great insights to help Canada’s tourism industry keep the momentum going in this market into 2012 and beyond.
Here are some of Greg’s notes from the road:
“Our three-day itinerary packed a real punch. We started by meeting three of the largest tour operators for Canada: CYTS, TTS and CTS (the Chinese love their acronyms as much as we do at the CTC and TIAC). All three were very positive, looking to increase their focus on Canada at the expense of traditional markets like the US and Australia. They’re also actively seeking to market new products and experiences from our country, identifying a trend of a mix of escorted and packaged tours complemented by a few days of fully independent travel (FIT) mixed in.
“These operators really appreciate working with Canada’s tourism industry; from the CTC to the provincial reps to the sales teams who come through their offices. Our alignment and professionalism is a core advantage that they don’t often see from our competitors.
“We then visited Vice Chairman Zhu and his team from the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). It’s been 18 months since Approved Destination Status (ADS) was granted to Canada, which allows Canada to market directly to Chinese consumers as well as working with Chinese tour operators and travel agents to market to group travellers. Vice Chairman Zhu re-affirmed the interest of increasingly sophisticated Chinese travellers in getting off the beaten track, enabling us to showcase some of Canada’s great destinations across the full breadth of the country.
“Vice Chairman Zhu had some excellent suggestions. First, Chinese travellers are looking for better services, including knowledgeable Mandarin-speaking tour guides, as the Chinese are prolific “learners” on the road. Second, since travellers are becoming increasingly independent in their travel choices, better signage in Mandarin at major tourist locations such as airports, hotels and attractions would help, too.
“Our third stop was at CTC’s advertising agency in Beijing and our PR agencies as we prepare for our third advertising campaign in this market, aimed to help close the sale for winter and spring experiences in Canada. Finally, we headed to the Canadian Embassy to meet Ambassador David Mulroney, Louis Dumas (head of the embassy’s visa section for Citizenship and Immigration Canada) and their teams. On the agenda: the rapid rise in demand for visas from China, the success of the group-visa program implemented earlier in 2011 and how to keep up with future demand.
“The embassy and CIC have made significant improvements in issuing visas, streamlining both the approval rating for visas and the turnaround time. Indeed, some Chinese tour operator partners have cited these improvements as a competitive advantage over the US. The embassy understands that tourism is an important industry for Canada in China and one it will continue to support strongly.
“Overall, both CTC and TIAC feel that Canada’s tourism industry has a strong potential in China, thanks in no small part to a competitive product, strengthening air capacity and a streamlining visa system. We have developed good business relationships with our partners in this complex market and have come away with a much better understanding of how both our organizations can support this market in the future.
“Stay tuned for more details on Focus Canada, a new educational and tour operator program in Beijing, March 19-21, 2012.”