The sudden grounding of tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped Richmondites from entering the tour guide market.
For the fifth year in a row, the Canadian Inbound Tourism Association of Asia Pacific (CITAP), a Richmond-based non-profit committed to developing Canada as the preferred destination for Asian travellers, launched a Chinese-speaking tour guide training program this week.
In past years, 40-50 students registered for the program. That number jumped to 56 students this year, which is far beyond the program organizer’s expectation, according to David Lin, board chair of CITAP.
“Some people have confidence that the B.C. tourism sector will grow sharply in a post-pandemic world. Especially with the rollout of the vaccine, the domestic travel might resume in late September,” said Lin. “We still remain hopeful people won’t put off any more adventures once the pandemic ends.”
China’s state-run media has been running stories about the travel industry rebounding in that country since the government relaxed travel restrictions. For example, the recent Qingming Festival, also known as tomb-sweeping holiday that falls on April 4, allows families to visit their ancestors’ cemeteries; Chinese citizens made 102 million domestic trips over three days -- up 145 per cent from the same time last year.
Lin anticipates that Canada will see similar trends.
“I’ve heard from some people saying they have been browsing through YouTube videos and virtual tours of breathtaking sceneries in B.C. to live through the pandemic,” said Lin.
“The crisis makes us realize that life is short. Now we are more than eager to connect with people and create unforgettable experiences with our loved ones. It doesn’t matter if the destination is far or close to your home, it’s all about the experiences, and we don’t want to have any regrets in life.”
Meanwhile, some changes have been made to this year’s program due to COVID-19, such as teaching students the travel safety protocols, noted Lin.
The three-week program will provide students with a certificate upon graduation, which will allow them to seek job opportunities in local travel agencies.