Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

Vancouver: Tourism Marketing and the Bad Case of ‘Stop-Over Syndrome’

Posted by Vanessa Vachet | 08.08.16


Vancouver Tourism and Stop-Over Syndrome

Vancouver Suffers from ‘Stop-Over’ Syndrome


Yes, we know you have majestic mountains to the north, whales, seals and porpoises frolicking in the surrounding waterways, and the best dim sum and sushi in Canada. You have 2.4 million friendly, multicultural residents who like to brag that they can snowboard, golf and kayak on the same day. You’ve been voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world, one of the best places to live and even ranked #36 in the coveted ‘top 50 destinations to visit’, by the travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveler

The problem is, Vancouver — your attractions, accommodations, shopping centres and tour companies aren’t as well-known as you think. By sitting back on your laurels, you aren’t getting the message out there that Vancouver is a varied and interesting place to visit. Therefore,  you keep selling yourself short! And we want you to stop. It’s leading to a bad case of ‘Stop-over syndrome’, especially with the overseas Chinese market.

Although a record 264,582 visitors from mainland China visited B.C. in 2015, the annual growth rate plunged last year to a mere 3.2% compared with more than 26% in 2013 and 2014.

Why is that?

QEQ has done the research and the prognosis is in:

Tour operators who sell Vancouver as a travel destination often remark on Vancouver’s ‘image problem’, in the mainland Chinese travel market.


According to local tour operators who cater to the Chinese inbound market, unlike Canada’s east-coast, or, say, the Canadian Rockies, the Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) has overseas Chinese tourists feeling lukewarm. They just don’t see the destination as a place to stay longer and sightsee. At most, our city is considered a 1-2 day pause in between travel destinations. It’s viewed as a place to kill time while waiting for your next flight or cruise, or for that obligatory visit with family or friends…they just don’t see Vancouver as a place worthy of a week. Other Canadian destinations that are considered worthy include Toronto, the Rocky Mountains and Eastern Canada.


Vancity Tour Operators say Vancouver needs a rebranding


With Chinese carrier Xiamen Air now offering new direct flights between Xiamen and Vancouver, it is now even easier to travel to beautiful Vancity. But will this increased ease of travel convert to longer stays or is the problem with Vancouver itself?

We’re not saying that Vancouver suffers from a ‘bad image’, but more of a lack of image in China, as a destination with abundant things to do.

After researching travel destinations around the world, we found destinations that we might not consider to be heavy-hitting marketers in the overseas Chinese market space — destinations such as New Zealand and the Arab Emirates have been heavily wooing China’s travelers. Even Ty Speer, CEO of Tourism Vancouver, views China as a battleground for market share. “It’s not about whether Chinese people will travel or not,” says Speer, “but, rather, where they will go.”

Like it or not, if Vancouver, and the surrounding areas, wants to tap into the lucrative Chinese market, it will have to compete more effectively with both established and up-and-coming global destinations.

That’s why you need a cure, Vancity. 


China could become Vancouver’s biggest source of extended stay tourists; admitting we have a problem is the first step to administering a cure. That’s why QEQ set out to find out what problem we in the 604 need to acknowledge. Our research showed revealed several key cultural insights:

1. The current perception of the overseas Chinese is that Vancouver only has enough attractions to fill a couple of days’ stopover.

2. Cost-conscious overseas Chinese find Vancouver expensive relative to its value, compared to the rest of Canada. Vancouver attraction prices are considered high in comparison to the rest of Canada.

3. Overseas Chinese travellers are unaware of all the attractions that Vancouver has to offer.


QEQ tips for making Vancouver a tourist hub!

Do Chinese overseas tourists even know about Vancouver attractions such as our beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park?


5 Tips To Encourage Extended Stays


1) Tap into the 55+ market in China! Many grandparents from Mainland China have received 10-year Visitors Visas to Canada.
2) Tap into our newcomers in Canada. Canada grants citizenship to approx. 257,000 newcomers each year! They can play a valuable role in getting out the all-important word-of-mouth. The tourism sector could benefit by encouraging new Canadians to explore, invite their friends and relatives from their homeland, and act as educated tour guides and interpreters.
3) Promote our unique Aboriginal culture/attractions in Vancouver.
4) Promote through popular social media used by Chinese.
5) Tap into the luxury travel market. 


Do these Chinese visitors know what else there is to do outside of the downtown core? Not likely.

Do these Chinese visitors know what else there is to do outside of the downtown core? Not likely.


By refining a Chinese travel market strategy to include the promotion all the amazing and beautiful attractions in Vancouver, you can attract more overseas Chinese for extended stays.

Vancouver deserves to be known as far more than just a stop-over destination for Chinese travellers!


If you would like to more effectively target Chinese travellers, contact us today! For over six years, QEQ has been helping accommodations, attractions, shopping centres and tour companies attract Chinese domestic and overseas visitors.



 Images courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: (Front Top to Bottom) Davide Taviani, Steven BylesflightlogKyle PearceJames Trosh