More air access between Vancouver and China, such as the newly announced link to the southwestern city of Kunming, bodes well for Whistler and ultimately B.C.'s ski industry.
"China is an important growth market for Whistler in both summer and winter seasons," said James Buttonshaw, Tourism Whistler's director of planning and partnerships, in an email.
"As an emerging market, the total visitation is small relative to our traditional markets; however Chinese visitation to Whistler has been growing. Increased air service between China and Vancouver is great to see, as it will further support the growth of the Chinese market for Whistler."
The new link, announced by China Eastern Airlines on March 16, will "piggyback" on the airline's existing daily direct service to Shanghai's Pudong airport three times a week. The plane from Vancouver on those three days will stop in Shanghai before going on to Kunming.
Vancouver's YVR airport is now the only North American airport served by four Chinese airlines.
"From the perspective of the BC mountain resorts industry, this is a very positive announcement," wrote David Lynn, president and CEO of Canada West Ski Areas Association, in an email to Pique.
China, he added, is a key market for the B.C. ski and tourism industry. Lynn highlighted the stats from Destination BC showing a 26 per cent growth in Chinese overnight custom entries to B.C. in 2014 over the previous year. U.S. visitors remain by far the largest market but China is seeing the most growth.
"In the short term, we expect to benefit primarily on the summer side of the business," said Lynn. "Longer term, we see excellent growth potential for our winter businesses."
Against this backdrop is the UNWTO (The United Nations' World Tourism Organization) Tourism Highlights, 2014 Edition, in which the growing importance on China is spelled out.
Of the 2013 key trends and outlook on international tourism, the report states: "China has consolidated its position as the number one tourism source market in the world, spending US$129 billion on international tourism."
That same report looks at trends and forecasts in the tourism industry.
In 2010, there were 940 million international tourist arrivals worldwide. That is expected to increase by an average of 3.3 per cent a year from 2010 to 2030. In terms of absolute numbers, that's some 43 million a year.
The report states: "At the projected rate of growth, international tourism arrivals worldwide are expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2020 and 1.8 billion by the year 2030."
International tourist arrivals in emerging economy destinations such as Asia and Latin America will grow at double the rate (+4.4 per cent a year) of that in advanced destinations (+2.2 per cent a year).
The report states: "By region, the strongest growth will be seen in Asia and the Pacific, where arrivals are forecast to increase by 221 million to reach 535 million in 2030 (+4.9 per cent per year)."
February resort numbers
Tourism Whistler's February room night numbers are now in and, despite the lack of snow, guests still flocked to the resort last month.
"Room nights in February 2015 were flat with last year and overall resort occupancy was 80 per cent," said Tourism Whistler's James Buttonshaw, director of planning and partnerships. "Performance was driven by strong occupancies over holiday periods, including BC Family Day, President's Week and Chinese New Year."
This comes on the heels on January, which was up 1 per cent over last January, again bolstered by high occupancies over key holidays and events.
The 2013-2014 winter season is Whistler's busiest on record.