A Victoria delegations whirlwind trip to China will pay dividends, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said Friday from that country.
Fortin, reached by telephone from Changsha, mid-way through the 26-member delegations trip, hopes to strengthen economic and educational ties with the Asian country. Hes leading the delegation along with Dallas Gislason, development officer with the Greater Victoria Development Agency.
The trip, with stops in six cities, is the second in as many years and follows a trade mission to China in 2010 that, according to the GVDA, resulted in $10 million worth of business for Greater Victoria.
The delegation is visiting Baotou in Inner Mongolia, Tianjin, Changsha, Suzhou (sister city to Victoria) and Shanghai to promote the capital region as a destination for tourism, technology and education. The group, which arrived in Shanghai Oct. 20, heads home from Beijing Tuesday.
So far, parts of our delegation have met with over 50 tour operators across China, Fortin said. Those tour operators that they meet with are the ones that construct packages. So its about making sure that Victoria is on the list of places they come and visit.
Members of the delegation, which includes post-secondary, real estate, immigration and business representatives, have met with the municipal tourism board in Suzhou and signed agreements for cross promotion on social media.
Victoria attracts 3.5 million visitors a year with an economic impact of $1.9 billion. Only a small number of those visitors are from China, but its the only segment of local tourism that is growing, Fortin and Gislason said. Our business from American tourists, which is substantive, is dropping. So China is the only one thats growing and its the market that many of our tour operators are focusing on, Fortin said.
The delegation met in Shanghai with consul general of Canada Rick Savone to discuss expediting the visa process for tourists, investors and students.
Part of the bottleneck of trying to get foreign tourists into Canada is that the Canadian embassy is overwhelmed. They cannot produce visas fast enough, Fortin said.
As a result of a 2010 City of Victoria-China trade mission, a partnership between the University of Victoria and Hunan University was established. This delegation, which includes representatives from UVic, Royal Roads University and Camosun College, made a presentation to representatives of Hunan University.
It was an opportunity to get in front of 200 students and promote Victoria as an education destination, Fortin said.
The GVDA worked through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai to set up meetings, Gislason said. China needs local partners to get into Canada as much as we need local partners to get into China.
We already have one guy whos actually looking at a couple of companies in Victoria, which will remain confidential. But hes looking at these companies to invest in. Hes also looking at a winery.
Gislason said the West Coast is attractive to the Chinese. They see it as a high-tech [friendly area] where theyll be able to attract the talent and keep the talent in those communities. Weve been using example like Microsoft and others that choose Victoria for that reason.
Gislason said having Fortin on the trip is an advantage. Its because of the situation in China where its hierarchical and the mayor in China kind of oversees all the developments in the community, so having the mayor along with us opens that door and makes that process that much easier, he said.
Fortin said the itinerary has been daunting, with four to six meetings a day
Its been pretty much 24/7, but quite exciting, both for the opportunities and, of course, for an opportunity to understand more [of] the culture of China, he said.
© Copyright 2013