With almost half of Chinese tourists to Canada heading into British Columbia, the DMO (destination marketing organization) Destination British Columbia (BC) is hoping to boost its winter tourist numbers again with a push for more experiential travel activities that cater to a younger demographic.

Following a joint report (in Chinese) from China UnionPay and Ctrip on winter travel consumption trends during the last Lunar New Year holiday, cold-weather travel destinations are jumping on Chinese travelers’ desire for more experiential travel. As noted in the report, outbound travel is growing in popularity among younger generations of Chinese travelers, and that demographic is more adventurous than their predecessors. These travelers are not as interested in joining tour groups or luxury shopping trips but prefer a more independent experience overseas—one which includes spending money on activities.

British Columbia hopes to attract more Chinese tourists with experiential travel activities

To cater to these more adventurous tourists, British Columbia’s destination marketing organization, Destination BC, has launched a Chinese-language campaign called “New Winter 72 Options” (新冬72变), which highlights a range of winter activities around the province. Consumers can book their travel experiences through Chinese online travel agencies—including Uzai.com, CITS, and Ctrip—that link to the Destination BC website. Twenty-three travel agencies have created different four- to five-night winter travel packages curated specifically for the Chinese market. Many of the travel packages include outdoor activities like skiing and sleigh rides.

British Columbia hopes to attract more Chinese tourists for winter festivals that include the Van Dusen Botanical Garden Festival of Lights, which is the most popular holiday light display in Vancouver from December 1 to January 6, and the Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain. Also on that list are indoor cultural tours of the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Destination BC even held a 2018 Winter Travel Promotion Conference in Beijing this October that British Columbia-based travel partners attended in an effort to boost Chinese tourism outside the city of Vancouver. The goal for the conference was to build upon the previous year’s success in drawing winter holiday travelers from China while showcasing the region’s activities for the upcoming Christmas and Lunar New Year travel periods.

The conference incorporated videos and VR experiences to help recreate outdoor winter activities that might entice Chinese tourists. Guests were also treated to Canadian ice wine from BC producers.

Manager of market development Asia-Pacific for Destination BC, Monica Leeck, recognizes the changing demographics of Chinese tourists. She noted that Chinese travelers are more interested in culture, food, sports and study tours.

The DMO also hopes to connect with travelers through its official Weibo and WeChat accounts. Of course, Destination BC isn’t the only DMO in Canada vying for more Chinese travelers this winter—Toronto and Ottawa have also launched campaigns and promote venues that accept WeChat Pay and Alipay.

Chinese tourists to British Columbia increased 11 percent year-on-year in the first quarter

The number of mainland Chinese tourist arrivals in Canada totaled 131,029 in the first quarter of the year, and 61,373 of those tourists traveled to British Columbia, an increase of 11 percent year-on-year. Last February, which included the Lunar New Year holiday in the middle of the month, British Columbia welcomed 20,145 visitors from China, a big increase of 27.7 percent year-on-year. That was almost half of all Chinese visitors to Canada during the month, and total Chinese tourist arrivals in the country were up 46.2 percent year-on-year. China was the third-largest source market for British Columbia in 2015, according to Destination BC’s profile of the market.

While on a trip to Shanghai in mid-September to promote investment opportunities, Humboldt, British Columbia, Mayor Rob Muench also spoke with tourism industry representatives about promoting tours outside Vancouver.

And despite a recent summer that saw widespread wildfires destroy 1.3 million hectares of natural areas, British Columbia hopes that tourists are still eager to return for more of their choice winter activities.