China has lifted restrictions on group tours to multiple countries, including the US and UK, but excluded Canada from the list of nations, suggesting in a deterioration of ties after Ottawa recently accused Beijing of meddled in its internal politics, the media reported on Thursday
Last week, China added 78 countries to its list of approved destinations for group tours, excluding Canada, while adding other major G20 countries like the US, Germany, Australia, and South Korea, reports the BBC.
There are currently 138 countries on the list.
In a statement, China’s embassy in Ottawa said it was concerned that “the Canadian side has repeatedly hyped up the so-called ‘Chinese interference'”.
Beijing is focused on “protecting the safety and legitimate rights of overseas Chinese citizens and wishes they can travel in a safe and friendly environment”, the statement said.
China’s latest move could have a significant impact on Canada’s tourism industry.
Destination Canada, which promotes tourism in the country, told broadcaster CBC that China accounts for the largest source of tourist arrivals from the Asia-Pacific region.
It is also its second-largest long-haul market after the UK.
Chinese tourists were estimated to have injected over C$1 billion ($740 million) into the Canadian economy annually in years prior to the Covid pandemic.
More than 700,000 Chinese tourists travelled to Canada in 2018, with each visitor spending an average of C$2,600.
Group tours from China to Canada were first approved in 2010, and it boosted air travel and tourism between the two countries, reports the BBC.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries deteriorated rapidly earlier this year amid a series of leaks to Canadian media of reports from domestic intelligence agencies that laid out accusations that China meddled in recent federal elections.
Canada has also accused Beijing of trying to intimidate Conservative member of parliament Michael Chong and waging a disinformation campaign against him on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat.
Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei was expelled from Canada in May over some of the allegations.
In a tit-for-tat move, China expelled Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, Canada’s diplomat in its Shanghai consulate, the BBC reported.
In 2018, bilateral relations had suffered a set back when Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada at the request of the US.
Two Canadians were arrested in China not long after, in a move viewed by Canada and its allies as “hostage diplomacy”.
Meng and the two men were released after the Huawei executive came to a deal with US prosecutors.