(26 April, 2013, Toronto)
Deputy Director Xu Yan of CNTO Toronto (China National Tourist Office in Toronto),
Director Michael Lim of the Toronto Office of Hongkong Tourism Board,
The Honorable Senator Victor Ho,
The Honorable Dr. Colin Carrie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health of Canada,
The Honorable MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan,
Officials from the Federal Government of Canada and Government of Ontario,
Members from the Chinese Communities in Toronto,
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
It is a great pleasure to join you today.
First of all, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the China-Canada Travel Forum with the theme of “Panda and Beautiful China”.
April showers bring May flowers. This forum could not come in a better season.
Travel broadens the mind. It is an important way to advance understanding and friendship among people from all over the world.
Exactly one month ago, pandas "Er Shun" and "Da Mao" were accorded with a rather grand welcome when they arrived in Toronto.
Media from all over Canada mustered at the airport.
I was privileged to join Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mrs. Harper for their arrival.
As the living national treasure of China, they are here not only to convey the warm affection and friendship from the Chinese people, but also to invite more Canadians to travel to China and see the beautiful China with your own eyes.
Last year, the number of Canadians tourists traveling to China reached 710 thousand, an increase of 30% over 2009.
Looking the other way around, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Canada has been increasing at a rate of over 20% annually since the signing of ADS in 2010.
We had a record high number of 410 thousand last year and my daughter is one of them.
I took her to the Pink Lake in Ottawa's Gatineau Park, Niagara Falls and Mount Royal in Montreal.
And she said to me the maple leaves were stunning, and she wanted to come again.
Now the arrival of the panda bears has added something new to Canada's tourist attractions.
I have heard that some travel agencies are designing packages to include "panda experience", appealing to not only Canadians but also foreign tourists.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Just as Prime Minister Harper said during his visit to China last year, "Tourism is one of the few industries in the world whose raw material is goodwill and whose finished product is friendship."
Tourism is not just about beautiful sceneries.
It helps people to learn about the diversity of the world and the importance of communication.
In recent years, the China-Canada relations have scored remarkable achievements.
That has come to be reality largely due to the deepening people-to-people exchanges between our two countries in areas including tourism.
People-to-people exchanges are one of the bedrocks for our strategic partnership.
That is why we need forums like this.
That is why leaders of our two countries have decided to hold series of cultural activities in each other's country in 2013 and 2014.
That is why China and Canada have pinpointed education as a new pillar of our bilateral relations and set the goal of increasing the two-way students to 100 thousand by the year of 2017.
That is also why our two governments worked so hard to get the panda bears to the zoos in Toronto and Calgary for a decade long joint research project.
Ladies and gentlemen,
My country is one of rich tourism resources.
The Emmy Award-winning documentary Wild China, co-produced by China and the UK years ago, opened a door to more than 50 wild life sanctuaries and scenic reserves, more than 80 rare animals and plants, and the exotic stories of more than 30 Chinese ethnic groups, in a rather breath-taking way.
And China has a lot more to offer, its unique history, culture, and the world-renowned Chinese food.
And more important than anything else is the hospitable Chinese people.
In recent years, China has been putting more efforts into the "high-end market".
We try to provide more themed and innovative products, and tailored services to travelers from both home and abroad.
For example, China launched the 2013 Marine Tourism Year, where tourists can expect a variety of products such as liner cruise and yacht tour, island tour, and marine culture tour.
This is designed to add a fresh aspect to your China experience.
Last year, China received 135 million inbound travelers and became the world’s third-largest tourist destination.
World Tourism Organization estimates that China would become the No.1 destination by 2020, which is also our goal.
To that end, China will speed up the development of tourism industry, by ways of training more tourism related professionals, providing more diversified services and products, and better protecting tourism resources and the environment.
We are expecting more foreign travelers, including those from Canada, to experience, explore and enjoy the beautiful China.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The cooperation between China and Canada in tourism is encouraging, yet still a bit inadequate if you do a little math here.
The number of Canadian tourists coming to China was only 710 thousand as compared to the total of 130 million international tourists we received last year.
80 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad last year, and only 0.5 percent of them chose Canada as a destination.
However, it also means greater potential for further cooperation.
The tourism industries on either side shall do more promotion work by using government platforms or through their own channels.
This forum today is a real good effort along that line.
Service has become the core element of modern tourism. We all know the key is to make tourists feel at home.
I learned that more and more hotels, malls, scenic spots here in Canada are beginning to offer services in Mandarin and trying to cater the habits of Chinese tourists.
In some cases it is just as simple as putting a kettle in the room for tea making. That is really big improvement.
I hope all of you both from China and Canada do make the best of this forum and have in-depth exchanges on how to improve services for tourists from each other’s country, so that we can move forward together for more win-win results.
And in the meantime, I believe our two governments should strengthen their policy dialogue and share good practices on issues like the tourism resources and environmental protection, industrial policy designing, etc.
But first of all, it would be nice if we can make sure that the tourists get their visas quickly and conveniently.
As a Canadian proverb says, Patience is a tree whose root is bitter but fruit is very sweet.
With years of unremitting efforts made by our two governments and people like you, the bright prospects for the China-Canada relations have never been as within-the-reach.
This is true not only in tourism cooperation, but also in a whole range of areas, such as trade, investment, education, science and technology, etc.
I do look forward to working with you all to harvest the sweet fruits of the all-around cooperation between our two countries, and bring more benefits to our two peoples and people around the world.