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Vancouver's spiffy airport cracks world's Top 10

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Chinese tourists visit major Canadian cities and our top natural attractions like Niagara Falls, but not in great numbers.

RON PRADINUK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Chinese tourists visit major Canadian cities and our top natural attractions like Niagara Falls, but not in great numbers. Photo Store

Inbound or outbound, the tourist industry is ever fascinating and evolving. This week's questions focus on the emerging changes that attract us, comfort us, or help strengthen our economy right here at home.

QUESTION: I travel extensively on business. In visiting the major airports around the world I can't believe how they have turned into major shopping and entertainment centres.

I never buy anything from these shops, but am curious whether these new concept airports are successful?

ANSWER: Apparently they are. A short while ago Skytrax, a international company ranked the survey results from almost 13 million passengers from 410 airports around the world to try and find out which airports were deemed the best. The survey results were based on visitor satisfaction in criteria that included service, shopping and dining options.

It's not surprising that some of the biggest airports in the world placed at the top of the list given their ability to offer the widest range of service options because of their size alone.

Singapore's Changi Airport was ranked the highest in the surveys, followed by the Incheon International Airport, Munich Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Haneda International Airport in Tokyo and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

Where do Canadian airports rank?

We should be proud that the Vancouver International Airport was ranked ninth in the world, a definite achievement considering some of the new super-sized airports that have been unveiled over the past few years. It is noteworthy that this airport was the only one in North America to achieve a global top 10 ranking. It has achieved that position for each of the last five years in spite of new grandiose facilities that have opened in the category.

This automatically put Vancouver International Airport at the top in North American Rankings. Other Canadian airports also did well.

Toronto's Pearson Airport was fifth in the North American ranking. It was not just the big airports that were recognized.

Halifax's Stanfield Airport ranked seventh in North America, a notable achievement for one of our smaller city's airports.

QUESTION: I took my first river cruise last year. My perception is that most of the people were older than your normal traveler.

Is there some truth to my observation?

ANSWER: Yes there is.

While the average age of river cruise passengers is 63, the nature and length of the selected cruise changes that average significantly.

On longer river cruise itineraries the average age is even higher, while on short one week itineraries it is significantly lower. Here even families are forming a growing percentage of the market.

River cruise industry spokespeople suggest it is the gentler nature of this style of travel that not only appeals to a somewhat older age demographic, but can extend a seniors travel options by ten years.

Every day there is an excursion included. It is extremely easy to get around the entire cruise ship, and the smaller venues make for a much more intimate environment to meet and socialize.

This popularity is why the booking window for river cruising is often up to a year in advance. An advertisement in this newspaper just two weeks ago was promoting cruises, not for this year but for the interesting options being unveiled now for 2015.

Even with the launch of several new ships each year, demand is still outstripping supply. The biggest river cruise operators are putting in rush orders to try and add as many new vessels into the river waters as quickly as possible.

With all of this growth there are now voices expressing concern about the ecological pressures that might affect the quality of the river waters from more and more ships passing each other by day and night.

Where the highest demand is on European rivers, already the various brands are passing by each other with constant regularity.

Fortunately river ships do not leave behind the same oil and effluent old style ocean cruise ships did.

QUESTION: I keep reading about the growth in numbers of Chinese tourists coming to Canada and other nations.

I don't see them when I go to the places that would be seen as tourist attractions here in Winnipeg. Is this really a big market, and when will we see them here?

ANSWER: Over 83 million Chinese tourists are now travelling every year, and according to David Goldstein, president of the Tourism Industry of Canada (TIAC), Canada is not getting anywhere near our fair share. Those that are coming are still choosing to take in our major city attractions like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal or our natural attractions in Banff and Niagara Falls.

The United States has been faring quite better and projects that by 2018, Chinese visitors will become their number one overseas market, overstepping their traditional solid markets of Great Britain, Japan and Germany.

China already is the heaviest spending market globally according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, with tourism expenditures in excess of $ Cdn. 112 billion.

Canada recognizes the need to pursue this market more aggressively. While it may be some time before Manitoba hits the travel radar of these new world explorers, be assured sooner or later we will get our fair share of those who decide to visit Canada.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2014 E5

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