Canadian tourism facing drop, with Chinese visitors put off by arrest of Huawei exec

By Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/12 21:43:40

Chinese visitors put off by arrest of Huawei exec

Shoppers enjoy a traditional Chinese lion dance performance at a mall in Toronto, Canada in February. Photo: IC

Chinese netizens are calling for a boycott of tourism in Canada and some are even questioning the safety of visiting the country following the arrest of a senior Huawei executive.

Canada's tourism industry could face repercussions amid growing resentment over the country's action against Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, despite Canada's aim to double the number of Chinese tourists by 2021 and an ongoing China-Canada Year of Tourism event.

Meng was released on bail on Tuesday, but she must remain in Canada. She was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 at the request of the US.

Meng's release came after Beijing authorities detained a former Canadian diplomat, Michael John Kovrig, on Monday for activities that could endanger China's national security, the Beijing News reported.

Some Chinese customers have been inquiring about safety issues regarding traveling to Canada, an ideal destination for ski vacations, an employee at leading Chinese tour operator CYTS told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Chinese netizens lodged numerous complaints over Meng's arrest on the official Sina Weibo accounts of the Canadian tourism authority and the Alberta and British Columbia provinces.

"I will suspend travel plans to Canada as Meng was arrested for no reason," a netizen named Yingyutongchuandashu wrote, and the post gained numerous likes.

Ordinary consumers in China are becoming more and more affluent, and anything damaging tourism from the country has become an expensive problem for overseas countries.

South Korea saw a sharp drop in tourism from China due to its deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system last year. The number of Chinese tourists visiting the country fell by more than 60 percent year-on-year between March and October in 2017, according to media reports. The incident cost the country $6.8 billion in lost tourism revenue by some estimates.

Individual companies can also be affected. Toronto-based Canada Goose Holdings Inc has high hopes for the Chinese market, but it has seen its shares fall from $69 to $55 since Meng's arrest.

Experts said the incident is bad news for Canada's tourism development, as official data shows that China became Canada's No.1 source of overseas tourists during the first four months of 2018.

During her visit to China in June to promote the Year of Tourism between China and Canada, the then Canadian Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger said Canada aims to double the number of Chinese visitors by 2021. Since 2010, tourist visits to Canada from China have grown at an annual rate of 20 percent, reaching 682,000 in 2017. Tourism makes up about 2 percent of Canada's GDP.

Damaged image

"Psychologically, there is now a crack and the image of Canada as a tourist destination has surely been damaged because of Meng's arrest," Yang Yong, dean with the School of Tourism at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

It will also affect the year of tourism event, in terms of market promotion and the design of itineraries, Yang said.

However, data from travel agencies has not yet shown any big change in the popularity of Canada.

"There has not yet been any apparent fluctuation in trip bookings for Canada," the CYTS employee said. Another  online travel agency, which declined to be named, provided similar data.

Zhang Lingyun, director of the Tourism Development Academy at Beijing Union University, said that China's tourism authorities are not likely to issue any travel warning for Canada.

"The government is unlikely to punish a country by banning or restricting outbound tourist flows. That would be against China's principle of solving disagreements through talks," Zhang said.

Newspaper headline: Canadian tourism facing drop


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