THUNDER BAY, ON ---- November 7, 2010 ---- Recently I was invited, in my role as Tourism Critic for the New Democrats, to accompany the federal Minister of Tourism to Shanghai and Beijing on a Canadian tourism trade mission. As I have many critic areas besides Tourism (e.g. Small Business, Water, Environment, National Parks, Climate Change) I receive many requests to travel. I usually say ‘No’, being just too darned busy with demands in both Ottawa and Thunder Bay-Superior North. But I said ‘Yes’ to this trip for many reasons, such as:
• China is the third largest economy in the world, and will soon replace Japan as #2.
• The chance to explore with embassy officials how we might pursue Chinese markets for forest products: 1.3 billion Chinese consumers are potential users of Canadian products (but most Chinese forests were decimated long ago).
• Shanghai is the largest port in the world, and Beijing is the capital of China. Those two cities combined have 40,000,000 people ...more than Canada’s entire population!
• Shanghai presently has 432 km of passenger rail which will increase to over 1,000 km in less than 20 years, with obvious rail car potential for Bombardier.
• Canada already welcomes 160,000 tourists from China each year, who inject $250 million into our economy …but this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 100 million Chinese tourists who will be looking for places to travel by 2020.
Here was an opportunity to work with leaders from other provinces and parties, and our embassies, to advance the broader goals and needs of Northwestern Ontario. This mission put the “icing on the cake” on the recent agreement that grants Canada “Approved Destination Status” (ADS). Chinese tourists can now visit freely through Canadian wholesalers and tourist operators. The potential is for millions of tourists and billions of dollars to balance our trade deficit. Immediate benefits will accrue mostly to Vancouver and Toronto, but these can spread outward. I will be working with the North of Superior Tourism Association (NOSTA), Tourism Ontario, and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) to see how we can attract some of those millions of tourists and billions of dollars to the Northwest.
I accompanied the following delegation members:
• Hon. Rob Moore, Conservative Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism
• Hon. Gerry Byrne MP, Liberal Tourism Critic
• Michele McKenzie, CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission
• Hon. Flor Marcelino, Manitoba Minister of Tourism
• Hon. Robert Vessey, P.E.I. Minister of Tourism
• Hon. Terry French, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Tourism
• Hon. Kevin Krueger, B.C. Minister of Tourism
• Canadian Ambassador David Mulroney, Beijing Embassy
• Nadir Patel, Canadian Consul General, Shanghai
On the trade mission I was able to attend some exhibits at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, where 6,000,000 Chinese visited Canada’s beautiful pavilion. I also attended the Canadian Tourism Commission Showcase in Beijing. There were dozens of Canadian tour operators, many Canadian and Chinese tour wholesalers, and hundreds of Chinese travel agents. I will be connecting many to NOSTA so that they can explore how they can match up our regional tourism gems with eager and curious Chinese travelers.
One thing that was abundantly clear was that many Chinese people like things that are big and dramatic. They will love taking the Lake Superior Circle Tour to see the biggest lake in the world. They will also love our Sleeping Giant, our vast forests, our superlative fishing, and hiking, boating or driving for hours without seeing another human - quite a novelty!
I am glad that our embassies in China are ready for the onslaught: 85% of tourism visas are approved and delivered in less than a week.
Hang on Canadians: soon, the Chinese may be coming!