OTTAWA, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- The first visit of Chinese tourists under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) agreement helped open a "new chapter of friendship" between China and Canada, a Chinese official said Monday.
"Our inaugural tour group experienced the warmth and friendship of our Canadian friends during our stay in Canada. We enjoyed Canada's gorgeous natural scenery, rich cultural heritage and colorful city life and experienced the friendship of the hospitable Canadian people," Du Jiang, vice chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), said.
At a banquet hosted by the governments of Ontario province and Ottawa city, Du said he expects Chinese tourism to increase now that the ADS has been granted.
"I am convinced that with Canada's attractive tourism resources and products, well-established tourism facility and quality tourism services, Chinese tourists will feel at home in Canada," Du said.
While Chinese are expected to make about 100 million trips abroad annually by the year 2015, he said, the Chinese government now sees tourism as an important part of the economy as China is increasingly becoming an attractive tourist destination for foreigners.
"The Chinese government has decided to turn the tourism industry into a strategic pillar industry for the national economy and a modern services industry to the greater satisfaction of the people," Du said.
"A five-year plan is being formulated in accordance with this aim. We are ready to work together with our Canadian counterparts to push forward the tourism communication and cooperation between the two countries and to make greater contributions to the social and economic progress through developing tourism," Du said.
For his part, Rob Moore, the Canadian minister of state for small business and tourism, welcomed the Chinese tour group and CNTA officials during their visit to Niagara Falls on Sunday.
The massive waterfall draws about 10 million tourists worldwide each year and is expected to be one of the most popular destinations under the ADS.
"I am thrilled to welcome the Chinese delegation to Canada," Moore said. "I am also glad to be able to show them some of what makes Canada a wonderful destination for our Chinese friends.
"With last week's arrival of over 350 Chinese leisure travelers, Canadian tourism has taken a step forward in terms of competing on the world stage," he said.
The ADS agreement, reached last December, was signed in Ottawa in June during the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Canada.
Moore said he plans to lead a tourism mission to China this fall with his provincial and territorial tourism counterparts.
"This will be a wonderful first-hand opportunity for our tourism leaders to experience Chinese hospitality while promoting our own great country and learning more about how best to improve our tourism offerings for our Chinese guests," he said.
The Chinese delegation, which landed in Vancouver on Aug. 18, has visited the western city of Calgary, Banff and Jasper national parks in the Rocky Mountains, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Ottawa.