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Considering China

50 Canadian businesses, tourism groups sing our praises in Shanghai

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The Canadian Tourism Commission is employing a speed dating approach to introduce Canadian businesses to Chinese suppliers at a seven-day trade show this week in Shanghai.

"Every 12 minutes a bell is rung and they move to different tables," said Donna Brinkhouse, CTC’s executive director responsible for Asia-Pacific.

CTC-hosted Canada Showcase is one of the first steps in raising awareness of Canada to the burgeoning Chinese travel market, which increased 14 per cent in the past year, with over 114,000 Chinese visiting Canada.

Maureen Riley, Tourism Whistler’s Asia-Pacific sales manager, is also in Shanghai.

"A lot of it really we’re starting with the basics, where is Canada, where is Whistler," said Monica Leech, Tourism Whistler’s international sales manager.

"We are positioning Whistler as a year-round destination," she said of Riley’s efforts at the trade show. "But where we’ll see the most volume initially is the summer touring market, with multiple destination itineraries."

With approved destination status anticipated this summer, the CTC’s Brinkhouse says a marketing plan tailored to China needs to be developed.

This winter the CTC initiated an $11-million campaign in Britain, France and Germany to upgrade Canada’s image as more provocative. That advertising campaign, which featured clothes abandoned at a twilight poolside, might not be appropriate for the Chinese market.

"What you launch in New York is not going to be the same thing you’ll launch in the China market," Brinkhouse said.

What the campaign will include, once approved destination status is received, hasn’t been decided on yet, although senior CTC management are already approaching Ottawa for further funding to promote Canada as a destination market.

"It’s the slowly, slowly approach," Brinkhouse said. "You don’t want to go into a market and think you’re gong to have this mass number of people that are going to come."

Vancouver-based Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is taking the same cautious approach.

"It’s going to take some time to find out if there is a match with our type of product," said Graham Gilley, vice-president, marketing and communication. Rocky Mountaineer has two staffers at the Canada Showcase trade show in Shanghai, introducing the independent West Coast boutique train company to Chinese tour operators.

Gilley said more research has to be done on needs and wants of the Chinese market, like translation services, dietary concerns, and number of flights to Vancouver.

"It’s not going to be a short-term windfall," Gilley said.

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