Wanting Qu, Vancouver | BCBusiness

Wanting Qu, Vancouver | BCBusiness
Four Chinese tourists will accompany Tourism Vancouver's Ambassador to China, Wanting Qu, on a five-day trip around Vancouver and Whistler.

The city's tourism association takes a creative stab at attracting more overseas visitors

Four Chinese citizens arrive Friday on an all-expenses five-day trip to Vancouver, with Chinese pop superstar Wanting Qu—Tourism Vanouver’s ambassador to China—as their guide. The four won the contest through Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo as part of a novel initiative by Tourism Vancouver to draw more Chinese tourists—the city’s fastest-growing tourism market—to the region.

The trip is the culmination of a four-month campaign by Tourism Vancouver, which included the contest on Sina Weibo and resulted in more than 30 million web hits. The contest required those seeking entry to follow the Tourism Vancouver Sina Weibo account and tag three friends. A new winner was announced each month and was personally contacted by Qu—in a phone call, in person or over Skype—which Tourism Vancouver travel and trade media relations manager Amber Sessions says was crucial, as contesting can often be seen as inauthentic in China.

This focus on China aligns with the changing tourist demographic coming to B.C. Tourism Vancouver expects overnight Chinese visitors to Vancouver to reach 208,123 in 2014, a 15 per cent increase over 2013.

"China is now Vancouver’s second largest international travel market after the United States," said Stephen Pearce, Tourism Vancouver vice-president of leisure travel and digital marketing, in a release. "This year, China will surpass both the United Kingdom and Australia in terms of overnight tourism arrivals to Vancouver. Our marketing strategy in China is to focus on high-end independent and incentive travel, in concert with our hotel partners, Vancouver International Airport, VIA Rail, Whistler, Victoria, Canadian Tourism Commission and Sichuan Airlines."

Along with the four contest winners, journalists from Marie Claire magazine and Mafengwo, China's leading social travel network, will participate in the vacation, visiting classic B.C. attractions such as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park, Granville Island as well as a one-night stay in Whistler. Tourism Vancouver also plans to send its own camera crew to capture the experience to share with its Chinese social network at a later date.

Check out the July issue of BCBusiness magazine for a feature story on what this growing market means for local tourism operators and the province's tourism associations.