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Tourism industry expecting hit after China leaves Canada off approved travel list


By Kevin Gallagher, CTV National News Parliament Hill Correspondent

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    Toronto, Ontario (CTV Network) — Canada has been left off China’s approved list of international destinations for tour groups, in an apparent political boycott.

This despite mainland China travel agents and tour groups, getting the green light to book post-pandemic travel to countries like the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

“I just think it’s another blow to tourism business owners that have had a rough few years because of the restrictions related to the pandemic,” said Beth Potter, president and CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada says the decision to omit Canada from the list – released on August 10th – was in objection to recent political tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.

“Lately, the Canadian side has repeatedly hyped up the so-called ‘Chinese interference,’ and rampant and discriminatory anti-Asian acts and words are rising significantly in Canada.” the Chinese Embassy wrote to CTV News in a statement.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to protecting the safety and legitimate rights of overseas Chinese citizens and wishes they can travel in a safe and friendly environment.”

China knows its citizens carry economic weight, as mainland Chinese tourists spend more than any other country’s tourists when abroad. In 2019, Chinese tourists spent US$255 billion around the world, with tour groups estimated to account for roughly 60 per cent of that.

In the past, these tours brought tens of thousands of Chinese tourists to experience popular sites like Banff National Park or Niagara Falls each year.

“I can tell you we are high on their list of places that they want to visit,” Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, told CTV News, adding that he wants the Canadian government to hammer out a diplomatic solution with Beijing.

“I do believe that it’s largely political, and I think it can be fixed through political means,” said Diodati.

In 2018, a record 757,000 Chinese travellers came to Canada, and spend C$2 billion, according to Statistics Canada.

In December that same year, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on behalf of U.S. officials.

That set off a chain of events that resulted in two Canadians being detained by China and Canadian agricultural exports being blocked by Beijing. Most recently, China has also been accused of meddling in Canada’s democratic process.

Potter hopes China will include Canada on the time it updates its approved travel list, but notes its members are preparing alternatives.

“It means that Canada as a Canadian tourism industry is going to have to look at other markets,” said Potter. “In order to fill the gap that will be left by China.”

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