Chinese market dubbed the 'holy grail' of tourism for Yukon

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Chinese market dubbed the 'holy grail' of tourism for Yukon

Chinese market dubbed the 'holy grail' of tourism for Yukon

Approximately 3,500 Chinese tourists make their way to Yukon every year — a number which continues to show signs of steady growth.

The majority come for winter based tourism, but not exclusively, says Robin Anderson, the global marketing manager for Tourism Yukon. 

"We're excited about the growth opportunity that China represents," says Anderson.

Anderson says Canada, the United States, and Germany remain the primary markets for Yukon tourism, while China became an emerging market about three years ago. However, that may soon change, especially with 2018 being celebrated as Canada-China year of tourism by the two countries, says Anderson.

"China is the holy grail in a way, especially for North American provinces and territories, and states that are on the West Coast ... It is a massive market and so even a tenth of a percentage point of the travelling market out of China is a huge number of travellers."

China is Canada's largest growth market in terms of volume, according to Anderson.

He says about half a dozen Yukon businesses are already actively marketing in China, including Air North, North Visions Development who manages several hotels around Yukon, and other smaller tour operators that cater to Chinese travellers.

Boom in winter tourism

Arctic Colour Tours is a travel operator which began catering specifically to Chinese tourists in 2014. Since then, Arctic Colour has seen an increase in demand, especially for Chinese tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

Daniel Mao, manager of Arctic Colour Tours, says his lodge welcomed more than a thousand guests in 2017 — a number which he hopes to double in 2018.

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Mao says many travel agents based in China are interested in the Yukon, specifically in aurora viewing businesses. He says Arctic Colour is now working with four or five wholesale travel agents based in Vancouver, which cater specifically to the Chinese market.

While the focus is still on winter tourism, Mao says the company aims to offer more than just winter aurora viewing, including: dog sledding, snowmobiling and festivals at the lodge. 

Mao says travelling to the Yukon is fairly easy for Chinese tourists, with only two to three per cent of applicants being denied a travel visa. He says, it's that level of accessibility that may be the difference in 2018.

"Our goal is we can invite all the people from all [over] the world to come here, and see what a beautiful view we have here."

Anderson says that "summer aurora viewing" — which begins late summer, early fall — is also growing in demand.

"We're seeing travellers from China who are doing paddling trips, we're seeing travellers from China doing hiking trips. So, there is a fair amount of diversity within the clientele as opposed to some of our markets which are a bit more one-dimensional," says Anderson.

How much growth is too much?

Anderson says Tourism Yukon is in the process of evaluating how much the industry can grow, while still maintaining sustainable development. He says Tourism Yukon has just created a tourism development strategy, which tackles the question of how much growth is too much.

Anderson says small groups of independent travellers are the demographic Tourism Yukon is targeting in its strategy.

"We do see some younger travellers from the China market, from mainland China itself but it tends to be in that kind of 45 to 65 target demographic. Which is perfect for us, they generally are a little bit more affluent, they're usually well educated and a bit more established by then. And they're experienced travellers," he said.

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