25% boom in China tourists to B.C. expected if approved destination status okayed

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VANCOUVER — Chinese tourism to British Columbia could grow 25 per cent a year now that Canada has finally become an approved destination for Chinese tourists.

After years of wrangling, the Chinese government has granted Canada approved destination status, which makes it easier for Chinese tourists to get visas to come to Canada. Up until now, most Chinese visitors came to Canada on business, student or family visas.

As a result, B.C. tour operators and travel agents will be able to organize and advertise tours to B.C. destinations, which could increase Chinese tourism to the province by 25 per cent a year over the next few years, the B.C. government said in a news release.

“Achieving approved destination status with China is a major economic and cultural step in terms of building our important relationship with China, particularly as we prepare to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Gamers,” B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said in the release.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement from Beijing where he was meeting with Wen Jiaboa, Premier of China.

The United States received approved destination status in December 2007. At the time 134 countries were on China’s approved destination list.