OTTAWA (AFP): China — a major source of outbound tourists — has left Canada off a list of countries now approved for travel by tour groups, its embassy in Ottawa said Wednesday (Aug 16), due to anti-Beijing rattling by Ottawa.
Last week Beijing lifted a Covid-era ban on group tours to dozens of countries including the United States, Germany, Japan and Australia, but not Canada.
Travel agents turn to the list of approved destinations when promoting and arranging foreign vacations for Chinese nationals. There are currently 138 countries on the list.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said in a statement that the reason behind the snub was “the Canadian side has repeatedly hyped up the so-called ‘Chinese interference.'”
It said “rampant and discriminatory anti-Asian acts and words are rising significantly in Canada” and “the Chinese government attaches great importance to protecting the safety and legitimate rights of overseas Chinese citizens and wishes they can travel in a safe and friendly environment.”
The United Nations tourism agency (UNWTO) says China grew to be the biggest tourism source market in the world prior to the pandemic. In 2019, Chinese tourists spent a collective US$255 billion on international travel.
Group tours from China to Canada were first approved in 2010.
In 2018, nearly 700,000 Chinese visitors came to Canada, spending an average of Can$2,600 (US$1,922) per visitor, or a total of Can$2 billion — out of Can$22 billion spent collectively by all foreign travellers, according to a report by the Canada China Business Council.
That same year, tit-for-tat arrests of a top Huawei executive in Vancouver on a US warrant and two Canadians living in China, accused of espionage, dealt a serious blow to bilateral relations.
Ottawa accused Beijing of engaging in “hostage diplomacy,” before a deal was eventually reached with US prosecutors that saw all three people released in 2021.
China-Canada relations hit a new low this year amid accusations of Chinese meddling in Canadian elections and the attempted intimidation of MPs that led to the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat in May.
Beijing responded by sending home a Canadian diplomat from Canada’s consulate in Shanghai.
Canadian government officials did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Janice Thomson, the head of tourism at Niagara Falls — the top tourism destination in Canada — said China’s decision to leave Canada off its approved destinations list was “disappointing.”
She expressed hope that Canada would make it onto the list in a future round of country additions.