Calgary prepares for visitors as direct flights from Beijing begin

The first non-stop flights between Calgary and China will start this Thursday and Calgary companies are getting ready to cash in.

The new direct flight from Beijing to Calgary will cater to the growing demand from Chinese visitors.

Hainan Airlines will offer the flight three times a week starting June 30.

“It’s about the ease of being able to directly fly to a destination,” Cindy Ady, with Tourism Calgary, said.

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“That is a whole different marketing exercise rather than have them land somewhere else and then entice them to come to your destination.”

Tourism Calgary and Travel Alberta are providing seminars and training programs to help local restaurants and hotels dealing with the expected increase in travellers.

“My message is: ‘get China Ready.’ They’re coming and we are welcoming them as guests and we want to make sure that Calgary is ready,” Ady said.

“Because basically you need to have some understanding of their culture and how they think and what they want to recreate while they are your guest. So we have been working really hard with our partners here in Calgary to be ready. What do they enjoy doing? One, they love to shop. They love things like cultural experiences like Heritage Park and they like to go to the mountains to say they have been in the Rocky Mountains.”

READ MORE: Hainan Airlines to launch Calgary-Beijing route on June 30 

Over at the Westin Hotel staff are taking Chinese cultural training and have been for years now. The hotel’s general manager worked in Beijing for eight years and knows the importance of small touches like providing slippers, menus in Mandarin, and serving Congee for breakfast.

“We knew that the Chinese customer was going to travel the world. We have already been one step ahead by having a detailed PowerPoint presentation of the do’s and don’ts, what to do and what not to do for already about seven years,” Arjun Channa, general manager of the Westin Hotel in downtown Calgary, said.

Up to 70 per cent of the travellers coming to Calgary on the new flights are expected to be tourists, while most of the remainder will likely be business travellers, which Channa says couldn’t come at a better time.

“I think Calgary has a great opportunity. I think this is probably the best time ever for it to diversify and that means new markets.”

The new Hainan Airlines non-stop flights have the capacity to bring in an extra 37,000 Chinese travellers to Alberta in the first year. This is the company’s second Canadian route and its first from Western Canada.

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