Chamber’s China trip more tour than trade mission

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chinaby Stephen Dafoe

The Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce is embarking on a “5-star Adventure to China” this fall and are making the opportunity available to members and non-members alike. The nine-day trip will include sight-seeing and shopping opportunities in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Hangzhou.

The Chamber held an orientation and information session Feb. 18 at the White Rose Diner to allow Citslinc’s Peter Liu to tell potential travellers some details about the trip. Although the Chamber’s representation at the session included only Chamber Administrator Diane Mineault and a couple local business owners, approximately 20 came out to hear Liu speak about the upcoming trip.

But attendees expecting to learn about how the trip could benefit their business may have been disappointed. Liu’s entertaining and engaging talk was mostly about tourist attractions, the need to carry toilet paper to some public restrooms, and the importance of drinking bottled water. The only discussion of economic development beyond what souvenirs to buy in China and how to bargain for them was an added tidbit that there might be a business meeting one evening if there was sufficient interest. That meeting would be held in a hotel meeting room if numbers warrant, in a coffee shop if fewer turned up.

Chamber Administrator Diane Mineault said the focus of the trip has changed from purely business. “Originally it was all about business. However, a lot of people want to combine business with pleasure,” she said, adding there will be some opportunity for businesses to network during the evening business meeting and in one-on-ones later that night. “Each business person from Canada can talk individually with a company he/she has requested. During this evening meeting, Chinese government officials and Chinese Chamber of Commerce leaders will make an introductory presentation which is followed by the individual meetings.”

Mineault said those wishing for more business connections during the day can cancel a tour in order to meet with the business people in their field. “Citislinc does not charge for making these business matches nor do they charge a business consulting fee,” she said. “They want to encourage business people to meet with Chinese business people to form relationships that can move forward once the traveller returns to his home business in Canada.”

Peter Liu, one of the company’s three tour managers in China said the trip is an excellent opportunity for local business owners to see how China has expanded over the years.

“China grew very fast. I think it is a good opportunity for you [Chamber members] to see why China grew fast. Some things must have been done correct[ly] there.” Liu said, explaining China’s emergence as a major economy offers Canada an opportunity to do more trading in resources, including lumber.

Like Mineault, Liu said there are also some opportunities for business connections on a smaller scale. “We have forwarded the information to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. They work very close with Citslinc,” he said. “They send you a partner if you need it. But not all Chinese businesses [are] interested. They want to make money as well. They don’t want to waste their time. That’s why they want to find a counterpart they are interested in. China [doesn’t] have a good wine, so if you are a wine producer, you can be selling your wine to China.”

Liu said travellers might be surprised at just how much the country has embraced capitalism. “China is already more [into] capitalism than America and Canada,” he said. “A lot of things have changed in China. We want you to see how fast China grew in the past 30 years.”

Penny Modien of Scotia Bank is one Morinville Chamber member who has been on the trip with the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce. She attended the Feb. 18 session and told attendees the trip is worth going on. “It was a phenomenal life experience,” Modien said. “You don’t get tired. You just keep going. There are so many things to do.”They put on a fabulous trip.”

The trip will include round-trip international airfare from Vancouver, 4- and 5-Star hotel accommodations, three meals per day and experienced English-speaking tour guides at a cost of $2,499 per person. An additional charge of $500 will apply for those wanting single occupancy.

The trip takes place Oct. 10 to 18. Those wishing to put a business face on their trip must register for that portion by July 15. The general tour booking deadline is Aug. 1.

For more information, call the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce at 780-939-9462 or visit morinvillechamber.com/chinamission.

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