New direct air service from China to Vancouver should boost tourism
» Tourism | Friday, June 17, 2011 • Air News Times
Vancouver should prepare for a surge in Chinese tourists who see B.C. as one of the most attractive places on the planet to visit.
China Southern Airlines president Tan Wangeng said Thursday that China’s granting of approved destination status (ADS) to Canada in June 2010 helped his airline confirm plans to fly to Vancouver as it enhances business and trade relations between the two countries.
“I’m sure B.C. and Vancouver will be a big hit among Chinese travellers,” the 47-year-old Tan said in an interview through an interpreter. “The first reason is that Vancouver is the closest city to China within Canada. Also, many Chinese people know that Vancouver is the most livable city in the world.”
Tan was in Vancouver for the inaugural flight Wednesday of direct passenger service by China Southern Airlines China’s largest airline company, with 420 aircraft between Vancouver and Guangzhou, a move that’s expected to significantly boost travel between the two cities.
The three-times-weekly service is Canada’s first and only direct flight to Guangdong, China’s most populous province and a key hub for foreign trade. It’s expected to save at least two hours travel time each way, which Tan believes business travellers will find particularly attractive.
Previously, passengers heading to Guangzhou had to travel via Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong.
The inaugural flights Wednesday into Vancouver and returning to Guangzhou were completely booked.
Tan noted that Guangzhou and Vancouver are sister cities, Guangdong and B.C. are sister provinces, and that business ties are strong and will get stronger with the new air route.
“For sure, there will be a lot more Chinese travellers on our planes,” added Tan, noting that there are 1.5 million Chinese in Canada and 400,000 in Vancouver, with “50 per cent having very close ties with Guangdong province.”
The airline is also launching a four-times-a-week cargo service from YVR to Shanghai.
Tan noted that 20,000 Canadians live in Guangdong, adding: “We expect more Canadian travellers to visit China.”
Tan said the airline had hoped to start direct flights between the two cities in 2007, but plans were deferred for several reasons, including the global financial crisis. And while ADS wasn’t the deciding factor, it enhanced the airline’s confidence in launching the new route.
Tan anticipates the airline will begin daily service between Guangzhou and Vancouver in about a year, depending on the market.
On a personal front, this week’s visit was Tan’s second to Vancouver, which he called a “beautiful city.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Tourism Commission said the Chinese tourism market holds tremendous growth potential, but even more so since Canada was granted ADS. The CTC said China Southern Airlines will bring up to 40,000 Chinese travellers to Vancouver annually and they will spend up to $72 million.
Greg Klassen, the CTC’s senior vice-president, marketing strategy, said: “We already actively market Canada in Beijing and Shanghai. The addition of China Southern Airlines’ new service between Vancouver and Guangzhou further unlocks China as a tourism growth market for Canada and an important first step into Guangdong.”
Klassen said the CTC estimates that China’s growth in outbound tourism could generate an additional $300 million a year in tourism revenues for Canada by 2015, and that Canada saw a 21-per-cent increase in trips by Chinese travellers to Canada in 2010, or 33,900 more arrivals than 2009.