The Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce is organizing an 11-day trip to China this October that it hopes will strengthen business ties with the region.
CEO Adrian White, who went on a similar trip last year offered by the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce, said it's more than just a cultural experience.
People who have signed up "want to meet some of their counterparts, they want to explore partnerships, they want to talk to some of the people who are manufacturing the products, or consuming the products that we are sending to them," he said.
Twenty people have signed on so far for the $2,500 journey. The trip to Beijing and Shanghai includes flights, accommodations, meals and admission to attractions such as The Forbidden City and Ming Dynasty Tombs.
Many connections already
The tour company, Citslinc, works exclusively with chambers of commerce in the U.S. and Canada. White said the chamber is holding an information session with the tour operator in March.
There are already numerous Cape Breton/China connections, he said, including business people with trade deals in place.
"We have a lot of students at the university," he said. "We have developers looking at the port. We have businesses that are being opened and run by Chinese immigrants to Canada."
Marjorie Fougere, who has run home décor store Finishing Touch for 30 years in downtown Sydney, said she's worked with Chinese immigrants and with people interested investing in land here.
'Can't be one-sided'
Usually, they need to communicate through translators, she said.
"So that's the first reason [to go]," said Fougere. "To really understand their culture a little bit more, because we can't be one-sided."
She recently decorated a new Asian restaurant in Sydney. The father of one of the owners came from China to build some of the restaurant's furniture.
"It was not quite what I had in mind," Fougere said with a laugh. "But quickly I learned that it was important that they had the input from their culture in the restaurant and we became a really good team."
For her, the trip also means forging possible future business partnerships.
"We have a number of suppliers from the Asian market and if the opportunity is there to meet some of them, what I would like to see — along with them coming here to invest in housing and restaurants and business — I would like some of these people who may consider actually opening wholesale distribution here in Canada."