The absence of Chinese tourists from Ottawa has sparked apprehension among local businesses, fearing the potential impact on their financial health. Canada’s exclusion from the list of countries permitted by the Chinese government for tour group travel has left many businesses worried about the loss of tourism revenue.
As per a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, China resumed outbound group tours to 138 global destinations after a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of approved countries for group tours and package travel expanded by 78 nations about three weeks ago, but Canada was notably omitted.
This omission, attributed by China’s embassy in Ottawa to concerns about rising anti-Asian discrimination and Canadian politicians’ focus on allegations of Chinese interference in elections, could lead to substantial financial losses for local businesses.
Etienne Cameron, co-owner of Ottawa-based tour company Lady Dive Tours, revealed that Chinese tourist groups constituted approximately 30% of his clientele and revenue before the pandemic. However, the absence of these tourists from popular city destinations is evident and has a notable impact on the business’s financial recovery.
Cameron expressed the importance of having Chinese tourists back, stating, “The Asian market is definitely the one that’s been hit the most at this point, and we still feel the difference … It’s not where it used to be. Eventually, we thought they would come back, [but] we’re still waiting.”
Before the pandemic, outbound tourism from China held significant value on the international stage. Chinese travelers spent $255 billion in Canada in 2019, contributing to 20% of the country’s international tourism spending, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization.
Destination Canada, the Crown corporation promoting tourism, noted that China was the largest source of tourist arrivals from the Asia-Pacific region in 2019, and used to be Canada’s prime market in terms of tourist spending. However, the pandemic’s impact on international travel has disrupted these patterns.
Colton Hroncich, manager of Crazy Moose souvenir shop in the ByWard Market, expressed concerns about the absence of Chinese tourists impacting his business’s revenue. The lack of Chinese tourists potentially affects the sales of items such as shirts and souvenirs.
The challenges are evident for businesses like Quichua World Market as well, where Chinese tourists used to frequent the store, contributing to significant daily revenue. Karidia Nieto, assistant manager, expressed disappointment about the barriers between Canada and China affecting their business and appreciation for Chinese customers.