Ever since the first Chinese landed on the west coast of Canada more than 200 years ago, the relationships between the two countries and their people have been growing and thriving year on year. While political understandings have been deepened and economic collaborations developed, there has never been a  more exciting time to further strengthen the people-to-people ties between the two sides with the inaugural Canada-China Year of Tourism kicking off in 2018.

You may wonder – Why China? Why now?

From the arresting Rocky Mountains, tranquil long beach and striking Niagara Falls to the magnificent Himalayas, majestic Forbidden City and delicate ancient water town, Canada and China are both known for their astonishing landscape, vibrant city life and welcoming people. Canada’s tourism industry has always been a driven force for its economy with one in ten Canadians employed in the industry. And China, is currently Canada’s second-largest trading partner and third-largest tourism source market. In 2016 only, more than 610,000 Chinese tourists visited Canada, an increase of more than 20% on average each year since 2011, and contributed $1.25 billion to Canada’s economy.

With close to 5% of Canadians having Chinese origin, and Mandarin and Cantonese being the third and fourth most-spoken languages in Canada, building stronger and more stable ties between the two countries opens the door to new opportunities for economic and cultural exchanges.

To continue fostering collaborations and celebrating the best Canada and China have to offer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang officially declared 2018 the Canada-China Year of Tourism during their meeting in 2016.

Photo credit: Toronto Star

In the first 10 months in 2017, the number of tourists visiting from China has already surpassed the total of 2016. It is estimated more than ten million Chinese are brewing plans on visiting Canada. To meet the increasing demand from Chinese travelleres, Canada recently expanded its Visa Application Centre network in seven major cities in China, including Nanjing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Jinan, Kunming, Shenyang and Wuhan.

The Honorable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, also expressed the intention of making the Canada-China Year of Tourism a long-term plan to promote travelling between the two countries in a recent interview.

Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver

And the support comes from all three levels of the government in Canada.

During his first official tour to Asia, B.C. Premier John Horgan struck a deal with China’s social media giant WeChat, owned by Tencent, China’s leading provider of internet services, in the hope to better promote B.C. tourism during the year. With more than 900 million daily active users, WeChat is among one of the largest social media platforms in the world. This agreement will undoubtedly let more Chinese visitors learn about B.C.’s culture and natural beauty, and benefit B.C.’s tourism operators significantly in the years to come.

Also earlier this year, YVR and Destination Canada (formerly the Canadian Tourism Commission) signed a Memorandum of Understanding designed to strengthen the relationship between the two organizations. As Canada’s gateway to Asia-Pacific, Vancouver welcomes 25% of all international travellers to Canada each year. By encouraging both organizations to share information, expertise and marketing intelligence to support each other, this agreement will significantly enhance partnerships in air service development, expand tourism and business opportunities throughout Canada. Notably, this agreement also highlighted the importance of partnering with countries of mutual interest, including China, to support the growth of new destinations flying from Vancouver as well as key airline partners, which lays a solid foundation for the Canada-China Year of Tourism.

Photo credit: Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival Facebook

In order to make sure Chinese visitors can fully experience the country, Canadian cities have been preparing various events and celebrations. Whether it’s racing at the one-of-a-kind Ottawa Ice Dragon Boat Festival in February, or experiencing Asian heritages in Canada during the designated “Asian Heritage Month” in May, Canada is ready to welcome record-breaking numbers of Chinese travelers. Business owners across tourist attractions are also getting set to create unforgettable memories for the visitors. Are you China-ready, as suggested by the Prime Minister?