Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'We're Suffering:' China-Canada Tourism May Slow amid Political Drama

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'We're Suffering:' China-Canada Tourism May Slow amid Political Drama

Article excerpt

China-Canada tourism may slow amid political drama

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VANCOUVER - Canadian tour operators specializing in travel to China say the growing diplomatic rift between the two countries is scaring their clients away, while those that bring Chinese tourists to Canada foresee a similar drop in interest that could put a billion-dollar industry at risk.

"We're suffering. We are suffering," said Julius Yan, who owns Laurus Travel, a Vancouver-based agency that has focused on tours to Asia for about two decades.

Canada's arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport on Dec. 1 at the request of the U.S. Justice Department touched off an escalating political spat with China. It resulted in the detention of two Canadians in China, the imposition of a death sentence on a Canadian convicted of drug smuggling and duelling travel advisories warning their respective citizens to reconsider any plans to travel between the two countries.

Yan has fielded a lot of calls and emails from concerned Canadian travellers since the Canadian travel advisory was issued -- though interest from Americans has been picking up despite the unfolding situation.

Many of the Canadians who contacted him wanted to cancel their trips, he said, which last between nine and 33 days, and cost anywhere from $1,625 to $17,550 before airfare.

He's spent a lot of time reassuring those clients that law-abiding tourists shouldn't worry.

"It would be very, very foolish for the Chinese to do anything to innocent tourists," he said. "There's no reason for the Chinese government to frame a Canadian who goes there to spend money, right?"

Yan managed to convince his nervous clients not to cancel their trips, but to postpone them by a few months to a September or October departure date.

He's swallowing the costs associated with that switch, including airline cancellation fees and hotel deposits.

"We can't punish our customers," Yan said, adding that if there was no political crisis, the company would go strictly by the book, but in a situation like this, it has to be sympathetic.

This week a school in Calgary decided to cancel a spring trip to China for 25 students and teachers "due to this increased risk level," said a Calgary Board of Education spokeswoman in a statement. …

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