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Visitors and tourists to Parliament Hill stand around the Centennial flame on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2021.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadians will be missing out on major tourism revenue from Chinese visitors as Beijing leaves Canada off its list of approved travel destinations – a move that it has linked directly to Ottawa’s recent focus on alleged foreign interference.

China lifted a pandemic ban on group tours to countries last week, including the United States and Australia, but tourists are still barred from group visits to Canada.

The change announced by China’s culture and tourism ministry on Aug. 10 has allowed Chinese and online travel agencies to book group tours and packages for Chinese tourists in 70 more countries all over the world. Canada was left off the list.

The snub is related to Canadian politicians’ recent focus on allegations of foreign interference by Beijing, according to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa. “Lately, the Canadian side has repeatedly hyped up the so-called ‘Chinese interference,’ ” the embassy said in a statement to The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

The embassy also expressed concern about an increase in “rampant and discriminatory anti-Asian acts and words” in Canada.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to protecting the safety and legitimate rights of overseas Chinese citizens and wishes they can travel in a safe and friendly environment,” the embassy said.

Allegations of foreign meddling in Canadian politics seized the federal government last spring after media reports earlier this year about claims China tried to interfere in the last two federal elections.

Opposition parties have been negotiating with the federal government for weeks to develop plans for a public inquiry into foreign interference after former governor-general David Johnston resigned his short-lived position as a special rapporteur on the issue.

China has been gradually lifting restrictions on travel, and last week’s announcement marked the third batch of countries to be reinstated as approved destinations.

The first batch, which included Thailand and Russia, was approved in January. In March, 40 more countries were added to the list, including France and Brazil.

Among other countries added last week are the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.

In 2019, tourists from China spent more money in Canada than visitors from all other countries, and they represented the second-biggest group of travellers arriving via long-haul transportation.

People from China spent an average of 44 nights when visiting Canada, data from Destination Canada show.

Those travelling solely for vacation purposes, as opposed to those visiting friends and family, tended to spend about 15 nights on average, according to the Crown corporation, with tours and all-inclusive packages a popular booking choice.

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