Beijing Boom: Why Chinese tourists are visiting Montreal in record numbers

Tourists from China are now the second-largest group visiting Montreal from overseas, after visitors from France.

Direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai credited with jump in Chinese tourism

Tourism Montreal expects 15 per cent of all tourists to Montreal in 2018 will be from China. (Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

Montreal is increasingly becoming a draw for visitors from China, with the country now accounting for the second-most visitors to the city after France. 

The city forecasts 142,000 Chinese tourists will visit Montreal by the end of the year, nearly triple the number of visitors that came in 2014. 

Direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai are credited for the growth, along with a growing middle-class in China that has money to spend on tourism and the draw of seeing family. 

In 2015, Tourism Montreal says 47 per cent of Chinese visitors came to see family and friends.

Tourism Montreal is predicting that by 2020 the number of visitors from China could hit 180,000.

Approved destination

Bill Wong, the secretary of the Sun Yat Sen Park Foundation, said the boom started about five years ago when the Canadian government started pushing trips to Canada inside China.

Tourism Montreal thinks 180,000 Chinese tourist will visit Montreal in 2020. (CBC)

The increase came after the Chinese government designated Canada an approved destination.  

The shift in policy allowed the Canadian government to advertise in China and, in return, tour operators here will speak Mandarin and find customers exclusively through travel agencies approved by the Chinese government.  

With a population of 1.4 billion and a growing economy, the market represents a major opportunity for Montreal.

More flights

In March, Air Canada increased the number of weekly flights between Shanghai and Montreal from three to six so that there are now a total of 3,485 seats linking Montreal and China weekly.
The direct flight from Shanghai was added in February of 2017. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Daniel Mo, a marketing specialist at the tourism company Sinorama, said since the extra flights began he's seen his business double.

"We have never seen so many tourist from China express interest in coming to Montreal," said Mo.

He says what attracts Chinese tourists to Montreal is Montreal's mix of old and new culture.

"What people want to see is the combination of the tradition and the modernity of Montreal," said Mo.

Training businesses

For its part, the city wants Montreal's hospitality industry to adapt to the habits of Chinese tourists.

It's trying to get Montreal businesses to accept payment through WeChat, a mobile chat and payment app that's used by a billion people in China, the city said last year.

Tourism Montreal also launched in May a program called Bonjour China, that is a one-day course for hospitality businesses in how to cater to Chinese tourists.  

Tourism Montreal said that on average Chinese visitors spend $1,400 per stay.

With files from Matt D'Amours