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Chinese travellers boost spending across Canada

In the eight months to the end of August, the number of travellers from China rose 7.7 per cent, year-over-year, to 359,000.

Jason Lee/Reuter

Spending by Chinese travellers to Canada is up sharply, as China closes in on second place among our largest sources of foreign tourists.

The most recent report on debit- and credit-card spending in Canada, released Thursday by payment processor Moneris Solutions Corp., shows that Chinese visitors increased their use of credit cards by 30.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the year-earlier period. That's dramatically higher than the 12.5-per-cent overall increase in spending on all foreign cards.

"China has become one of Canada's largest sources of foreign tourists in recent years," said Angela Brown, president of Moneris. Indeed, the organization said that by the third quarter of this year, Chinese visitors had overtaken those from Britain as the second-highest credit-card spenders in Canada – after visitors from the United States.

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The most spending on Chinese credit cards in Canada takes place in apparel stores, Moneris said, while the biggest category of U.S. visitor spending is at restaurants.

When it comes to the overall number of visits to Canada, China still falls behind the United States and Britain, but that is expected to change within the next year with China moving into second place.

In the eight months to the end of August, the number of travellers from China rose 7.7 per cent, year-over-year, to 359,000, according to Statistics Canada.

About 512,000 visitors came from Britain. (The United States is far out in front, at 8.85 million overnight visitors.)

Destination Canada, the Crown agency responsible for selling Canada as a travel choice, has said China will overtake Britain by the end of 2016.

While visitor growth from China slowed a bit in the late summer – as it did from other countries – double-digit percentage increases should resume by the end of the year, Destination Canada president David Goldstein said.

China is no longer an emerging market, he said, but is becoming a "very high-yield traditional market." People are now coming to Canada from secondary markets in China, not just the big cities, he said.

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The growing middle class in China is one factor increasing Chinese tourism to Canada.

Another key factor was an agreement between the two governments signed five years ago, which gave Canada "approved destination status." This allowed direct-to-consumer tourism advertising in China and permitted Chinese group visits. Quicker visa processing has also helped.

Mr. Goldstein said Chinese tourists are now travelling all across Canada and not just to the traditional sites in Western Canada, or Niagara Falls. A new direct flight from Beijing to Montreal "is opening up a whole new part of the Canadian market," he said.

The move of China toward second place in the Canadian travel market is not a reflection of a decline in British tourism, but merely a reflection of the robustness of Chinese tourism, Mr. Goldstein said. In fact, the number of travellers from Britain rose 6 per cent in the first nine months of the year.

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