Monday, December 13, 2010

China: Exponential Tourist Market

Thirty years ago my first impression of the Canadian Rockies and places like Banff National Park, Alberta and Vancouver Island, British Columbia was awe. Pristine greenish blue lakes, snow capped mountains, invigorating hikes to alpine meadows, the roaring surf of the Pacific coastline left indelible impressions. At the time I remember many Asian travelers including the affluent Japanese who swept into these destinations in luxurious buses and stayed in the five star hotels.

Now the middle class of China's 1.3 billion citizens are poised to travel. Earlier this year China granted approved destination status to Canada and travel agencies are paving the way with group tours. On one of the first tours a Beijing student said, "Everything is so beautiful and fresh. I love it here." One travel company is expecting a 30 per cent annual jump, year after year, in Chinese travel here.

Canada's ambassador to China said, "With a growing middle class, a booming economy, and an increased outbound travel potential, the China market presents huge opportunities for the Canadian economy."

The United States is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding several years ago. "In 2007, China ranked as the 16th largest international market for the United States, with 397,405 Chinese visitors to the U.S. Chinese visitors spent a record $2.56 billion in the U.S. in 2007, with average expenditure of over $6,000 per person." There are expectations of dramatic growth.

In a country with crowded and frenetic cities and challenged environmental standards, one can imagine how their tourists will be entranced by the beautiful destinations of the world.