Chinese airlines in Canada

New Tails Hitting Canada’s Runways

There will soon be some new tails at Canada’s airports. With the government of China finally granting Canada ‘Approved Destination Status,’ air traffic between the two countries is expected to boom. As tour groups of mainland nationals begin to flock to our shores, the entrepreneurial Chinese aren’t about to leave all the flying to Air Canada.

Ever heard of Hainan Airlines? It’s definitely not a household airline name in Canada. But it may soon be. How about Shadong Airlines? Xiamen Airlines? These young carriers serve millions of Chinese passengers in a rapidly expanding domestic market. Hainan is one of the few to spread its wings beyond China onto the international front. They currently serve Seattle and have now received regulatory approval to become the first Chinese carrier to offer scheduled flights between Toronto and Beijing.

Thanks to its geographical position, Vancouver is the natural Canadian gateway to Asia, and Chinese carriers are already firmly entrenched. China Airlines, China Eastern and Air China each serve Vancouver, while currently all outbound Toronto flights to Chinese cities are served by Air Canada.

China is the fastest-growing major economy in the world, with an average annual GDP growth rate of over 10%. A large middle class population with strong consumption power is emerging, especially in major cities. China’s outbound tourists totalled 20.22 million in 2003, overtaking Japan for the first time. But that was only the beginning: the China Tourism Academy estimates as many as 54 million tourists will go abroad this year, up from 47 million in 2009. With 54 million Chinese travellers poised to fly, the world’s skies may soon be dominated by eastern carriers.

The Approved Destination Status now allows Chinese travel agents to advertise and organize group tours to Canada. In 2008, visits to Canada by Chinese citizens were up 5.3 per cent from the year before, for a total of 159,000. Chinese travellers had the highest average length of stay (28 nights) in Canada and spent more than visitors from any other country ($1,648.51). According to a Conference Board of Canada survey, approved destination status is expected to boost the yearly rate of travel to Canada from China by up to 50 per cent by 2015. With U.S. overnight visitors down 53% since 2000, there’s no doubt that Canada’s inbound tourism industry is awaiting the influx of Chinese visitors with bated breath.

The other benefit of the ADS designation is that new services offered by Chinese carriers flying to our cities will likely mean tighter pricing on fares for Canadians wanting to visit China.

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