PEI

P.E.I. targeting Chinese tourists as part of new promotion

As China jumps to the world's number one source of tourists, P.E.I. is trying to get a piece of the action. The Island is teaming up with other Atlantic provinces and the federal government to promote the region.

'It's going to take a number of years to really gain some awareness in a country of that size'

Chinese actress Nina Zhang films on Dalvay Beach in August 2016. (Instagram)

As China jumps to the world's number one source of tourists, P.E.I. is trying to get a piece of the action.

From a percentage growth perspective, we're seeing a dramatic increase.—Brenda Gallant, Tourism P.E.I.

The Island is teaming up with other Atlantic provinces and the federal government to promote the region with a trio of creative campaigns.

A film crew from China was on the Island in late August, with a cast of actors shooting an online program targeted at millennials.

"It's a love story," explained Brenda Gallant, director of marketing for Tourism P.E.I.

"It really portrayed P.E.I. in a very romantic setting ... The guy finds a pearl in an oyster and presents it to his girlfriend ... So they did a lot of shoots, especially beach scenes but they also did some downtown Charlottetown, walking on Victoria Row."

There's no exact date yet, but Gallant says the show will be released between January and June in advance of next year's summer tourism season.

'Strong travel influencer'

Another part of the campaign features a cross-Canada motorcycle tour by renowned photographer Ryan Pyle, who does a lot of work in China. His trip will be shown on Chinese television.

Photographer Ryan Pyle did a cross-Canada motorcycle tour that will be featured on Chinese television. (Facebook)

"He's a really strong travel influencer," said Gallant.

Conde Nast China was also filming on the Island, added Gallant, with the crew from the travel magazine focusing mainly on the National Park as well as a fishing expedition.

Hoping for trickle effect

There has been "tremendous growth" in Chinese tourism since 2010 when Canada received improved destination status, explains Gallant. The number of Chinese visitors has grown by about 24 per cent per year, with about half a million Chinese tourists coming to Canada annually.

Most head for Toronto and Vancouver, but Gallant says the other provinces are starting to see a trickle effect.

"They enjoy golf, that's one of the products they love, they love nature as well and they love adventure. And so seeing a place like Prince Edward Island is very different than their own country," said Gallant.

In 2012, the Island hosted about 250 Chinese tourists. That number had jumped to 850 by the end of July this year, based on occupancy reporting.

Brenda Gallant with Tourism PEI says user-generated content adds credibility to tourism marketing. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"We also know we have motor coach tours from Toronto and Vancouver that have a combination of Chinese Canadians and friends and relatives from Canada," added Gallant.

"There's also a growing Chinese population here on P.E.I. and if they have friends and relatives staying with them, we're not capturing those numbers.

"It's still very small, but certainly from a percentage growth perspective, we're seeing a dramatic increase."

It's a huge country

The Japanese have a long-time fascination with Prince Edward Island and travel to the Island in large numbers because Anne of Green Gables has been part of the school curriculum.

But it's not the same in China despite efforts to introduce Anne of Green Gables.

"Certainly not that awareness in China yet, and I say yet, because I really hope that will happen one day, it would be fantastic," mused Gallant.

ACOA contributed $174,000 towards the promotions in China, with each of the four Atlantic provinces kicking in $15,000.

"China is a huge country and it's going to take a number of years to really gain some awareness in a country of that size," added Gallant.

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