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Canada rolls out welcome mat for first Chinese visitors under new tourist agreement

08-19-2010 17:06 BJT

VANCOUVER, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Canada officially rolled out the welcome mat for the Chinese visitors Wednesday with the arrival of the first travelers after the country received the Approved Destination Status (ADS) with China.

Following more than a decade of negotiations to receive the designation, 381 Chinese travelers aboard three planes - Air China flight 991 and Air Canada flight 30, both from Beijing, and Air Canada flight 26 from Shanghai - touched down at Vancouver International Airport, further strengthening the ties between the two countries.

Speaking at a welcoming ceremony at the airport, Stockwell Day, Canada' s Asia-Pacific Gateway minister, called it an "exciting day" and added there really was "no limit to the amount of enterprise and industry that will benefit from this."

He cited the strong growth of the Chinese GDP, over 9 percent last year, and the 47 million Chinese who traveled abroad in 2009. The World Tourism Organization has forecast some 100 million international Chinese travelers in 2020.

"We want to make sure that Canada is a wonderful and attractive magnet for as many of those travelers as possible. With 1.4 million people of the Chinese descent already living here, we have much to offer and we want to see that continues to grow," said Day, who was in Beijing last December with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper when China granted the ADS.

The difficulties and often lengthy waits in obtaining a Canadian visa, however, have been a problem for many Chinese applicants wanting to travel to the country. The procedure usually involves a lengthy financial background check. Only about 60 percent of applicants are successful in obtaining a visa, according to a local travel agent.

Day, who is also the country's treasury minister, ensured that many changes had been made to the country's visa preparation procedures to simplify the process.

"We have opened more offices in China. We have certainly opened more trade offices. We have brought more personnel to the visa preparation areas so that people wanting to come to Canada from China can continue to see an expedited process. We have something called a business express process for business people and regular travelers are also going to experience increased capability and more efficiency for getting their visas processed and being able to come to Canada."

Du Jiang, vice chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, accompanied the ADS travelers to Vancouver. He said everybody involved felt the "heartfelt welcome of Canada" and sincerely expressed his gratitude.

"This is my first trip to Canada too and I highly look forward to my trip. After the trip I will share the beautiful memories with my friends and family."

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