VANCOUVER, July 9 (Xinhua) -- With the hot Canadian summer now well underway, people from all around the world are pouring into cities like Vancouver and Toronto -- not least Chinese tourists who, thanks to policy change over the last few years, are becoming one of the largest groups of foreign visitors to the country.
While American and European visitors continue to travel to Canada in strong numbers, the number of Chinese visitors has increased by 246 percent between 2004 and 2013, largely due to the Chinese government granting Canada approved destination status in December 2009.
Policy changes have given Chinese tourists easier access to visas, and have also allowed marketing and tourism agencies to market Canada directly to Chinese consumers.
Canada's western province of British Columbia (B.C.) is where most Chinese travellers first arrive. According to the tourism department of B.C., last year, the number of Chinese tourists to Canada surpassed those from Britain for the first time, making China the largest off-shore source of tourists to the country.P B.C.'s tourism official Monica Leeck told Xinhua that Chinese visitors to Vancouver, the largest city in B.C., are increasing year by year. And the average age is younger than before, with the 20-to-44 age group comprising about 43 percent.
"We're really lucky in British Columbia because we're well positioned with a plethora of year-round activities, so really the sky is the limit and with the appetite from the Chinese market, I think we'll see so many changes over the next five to ten years," said Leeck.
Tourism officials also say the average Chinese tourist is now more independent and discerning than before. While a guided bus tour is still the most popular way to take in the country, Chinese visitors are now increasingly booking ski trips, wildlife tours, sporting holidays and culinary vacations.
CAL World Travel and Tours in Vancouver mainly caters to those from China and Southeast Asia. Its director, Alice Lin, said the company used to focus on business and government travelers for its Chinese market, but the number of trips booked by ordinary Chinese people has been surging since 2009.
Last year, CAL arranged holidays for 2,000 Chinese residents, and the number is set to climb higher this year, said Lin.
"Right now the Chinese tourists in Vancouver want to do some special tours, such as fishing, whale watching, or even simply enjoying afternoon tea," she added.
When asked about the favorite sites for Chinese tourists in Canada, Lin said the most popular destinations are Vancouver, Victoria and the Canadian Rockies. And of course, on the east coast, Toronto, Niagara Falls and the major metropolitan cities.
Lin noted the policy changes in 2009 not only helped Chinese to explore Canada, but also allowed tour agencies like hers to explore the Chinese market, which is, by all indicators, growing faster than ever before.