Efforts to promote Chinese tourism to Whistler seems to paying dividends for the resort community.
Chinese tourists in B.C. spend an average of over $2,460 per person when they visit, the fourth highest of any country and the most of any Asian nation. This translates to $132 million in spending per year.
Close to that amount are Brazilian tourists, who spend $1,837 per person according to market development and destination sales expert Kim Hood, with Tourism Whistler.
Hood said the amount of money tourists from those two markets spend is quite high and as a result the destination marketing organization is going after them to visit Whistler.
“We know these are the higher yield travellers,” she said. “Even though the numbers might seem small at times, we are seeing year-over-year room night increases.”
Canada received approved destination status in China three years ago, meaning Canadian companies are now allowed to promote tourism initiatives within China. Since then the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), Tourism B.C. and Toursim Whistler have been pursuing Chinese opportunities. However, 2011 was the first full operational year for marketing organizations in that country to begin analyzing data.
So far, Hood said the resort has already seen a 30 per cent increase in Chinese visits in the 2011-12 winter season compared to the year before.
“We want to go after the customer that is right for Whistler and it takes a while to figure that out and create partnerships,” Hood said, adding that skiing is a niche market in China, making summer Whistler’s biggest opportunity to attract Chinese tourists..
As a result of increased visitation Tourism Whistler is putting on a training program for front line staff that may interact with Chinese tourists.
A trainer from the Super Host program, a customer service delivery program active since Vancouver’s Expo 86, will be on hand Nov. 10 for the workshop, which is expected to cover key phrases to engage Chinese customers, their expectations and an overview of their culture.
Hood said the idea is to facilitate a higher level of customer service for the Chinese consumer and promote awareness of that emerging market with local businesses.
“Now that we are starting to see Chinese customers stay overnight and experience our product, we want to ensure all levels of the resort are delivering high quality service because they have high expectations,” she said.
Oftentimes, Chinese travellers come to the West Coast to visit family as part of a typical three to four month trip and spend part of that time visiting destinations like Whistler, and Hood said that Tourism Whistler is trying to better understand that type of visitor.
However, Tourism Whistler is also focusing on Brazil and India as emerging markets. The challenge with both is air access, noted Hood, as there are no direct flights to Vancouver from either destination.
For Brazil, “we know there is a ski market, which is a high-end luxury market,” said Hood, which is why Tourism Whistler partnered with the CTC to create a presence there.
“The majority of Brazilians that come to Canada tend to go east,” she said. “However, we see it as an opportunity and we are trying to be creative.
“Brazilian skiers have been coming to Whistler for quite a while actually.”
Part of the process is building relationships on the ground in Brazil so Tourism Whistler can “hit the ground running” if and when a direct flight to Vancouver becomes available.
Now that the CTC has an office in India, Hood said tourism efforts are underway in that market.
“The middle class in these countries are growing and as they have means to travel, they consider soft adventure or adventure sport and skiing high up there on the list,” Hood said.