Nihao is the word Chinese use to say hello.

And on the first full day of his trip in China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping they'll also say yahoo to Canada.

Chinese youth wearing white cowboy hats and waving Canadian and Chinese flags filled spiral staircases as Harper helped launch a new tourism marketing campaign highlighting the centennial of the Calgary Stampede as a reason for more Chinese to travel to Canada.

Harper opened a Canadian tourism office in Beijing highlighting the centennial of the Calgary Stampede as a reason for more Chinese to travel to Canada.

It's the first in a series of stops for the prime minister who's on a three-city tour of China in part to promote people-to-people ties.

Canada received Approved Destination Status from China in 2009, which allows Canada to be officially marketed as a destination.

Chinese tourism to Canada up 25%

Since then, tourism to Canada has increased by 25 per cent, including an estimated 232,000 travellers in the first 11 months of 2011.

"It is one of the few industries in the world whose raw material is goodwill and whose finished product is friendship," Harper said at the China Youth Travel Service headquarters.

"And I think the world needs all the friendship and goodwill it can get."

The head of CYTS said the Chinese are already impressed with Canada's landscape and citizens.

"Travel is the best way to build bridges between people and countries," said Zhang Li Jun, through a translator.

At the event, officials were handing out copies of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables translated into Mandarin.

Harper's wife Laureen wrote the forward and had signed copies.

In an editorial, a Chinese state newspaper says Harper's visit comes at an important moment in bilateral relations.

But in order to develop them, both sides need to treat each other with respect and appropriately handle sensitive issues, The China Daily said.

"It is hoped the two countries can make their relationship a model for relations between countries of different social systems and modes of development."

Harper, who arrived in Beijing early Tuesday, is making his second visit to China since 2009. Since then, the two countries have grown closer thanks to a series of high-level meetings.

Harper to meet Chinese Premier

Harper is hoping to push forward the relationship with a series of events highlighting people as much as product, as well as signing new deals.

Tourism in particular is an important revenue stream in Canada, contributing nearly $15 billion to the economy in 2010, according to government figures.

Another key topic of discussion on this trip will be oil and gas, and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which could deliver oil from Alberta to ports in B.C. and then onwards to China.

A delegation of executives, many from Canada's energy sector, is travelling along with the prime minister.

Harper is scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Wednesday for bilateral talks and the expected signing of an agreement to further economic ties.

But first he and Laureen were to visit a key cultural icon in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven. Centuries ago, the temple was where emperors flocked to pray for a good harvest.

However, there will also be some difficult issues to tackle on this trip, such as Syria.

The prime minister is expected to raise China's decision to veto a UN resolution that would have supported a plan to see Syrian President Bashar Assad give up power.

With files from the CBC