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Business trip to China was unforgettable experience for regional chamber members
The president of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce (SOCC) is confident the recent trip to China by close to 200 business owners from across the Okanagan Valley will reap economic benefits for Osoyoos, Oliver and the entire valley for years to come.
Holly Plante recently returned from a two-week business trip to China, where her main goal was to establish business connections, promote wine from across the South Okanagan and encourage business owners in China to consider doing business in this region.
Plante was joined by executive director Bonnie Dancey and transportation chair Robert Linttell in representing the SOCC during the trip to China.
A delegation of 176 business owners and chamber representatives from across southern British Columbia participated in the business trip to China.
Plante said the best news from her trip was that a delegation of business owners from China are planning a trip to Vancouver next spring and they would consider a trip to the Okanagan Valley.
“I got to meet with the business manager from the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China,” said Plante. “There will definitely be a delegation from China coming to Vancouver in the spring and I did my very best pitch to convince them to include a trip to the South Okanagan, which the manager seemed very excited about.
“It’s part of my job over the next few weeks to put together a package … to bring this group here.”
With the world’s fastest-growing economy, there are a lot of wealthy people in China and many of them want to invest and purchase property in Canada, particularly Vancouver, said Plante.
“Vancouver is considered the premier destination for wealthy people in China … and my thought is that if we can get these people who plan on coming and investing in Vancouver to come to our region and spend some money, that it would be great,” she said.
The tour by SOCC representatives took them to Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Hangzhou.
Two tour guides she met in China had close connections to middle and upper class wine clubs and these wine clubs wanted more information about the world-class wine now being produced across the South Okanagan, said Plante.
“From talking to people in the wine industry from our region, there has been a lot of high-end wine sold to wealthy tourists from China,” she said. “I’ve heard of stories of some tourists walking into local wineries and spending tens of thousands of dollars on expensive wine.
“With the Chinese learning more about wine and the middle class open to paying $25 a bottle, which is the price range of most of the wineries from our region, we think there’s a very good fit there.”
Getting as many Chinese tourists and business owners to the South Okanagan as possible remains the goal of the chamber, said Plante.
“We’ve always said that once we get people to visit here, they will want to return … because it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Plante.
What the chamber doesn’t want to do is plan large-scale wine tours from Chinese visitors – or any other country for that matter, said Plante.
“What we don’t want is endless bus tours and huge crowds … that’s not what our region is all about,” she said. “We want people to be able to come here and enjoy themselves without the hustle and bustle of the big city.
“We’re all about providing a memorable and quaint experience for all of our visitors.”
While she spent much of her time meeting business associates, Plante also had time to take in the sights and visited the Great Wall of China, Ming tombs and a Magnetic Levitation train called the Mag-Lev which reached speeds of 430 km/hour.
They also had tours of factories that made jade, pearl, silk and embroidery and employed tens of thousands of workers.
Dancey said she had an amazing time during the trip.
“I am still awestruck,” she said. “It was not what I expected as I certainly wasn’t expecting the level of commercialism over there.
“It’s unreal what they have accomplished over there in terms of economic development.”
Dancey said her role was to represent the chamber and answer any questions from Chinese business leaders.
“I didn’t have any scheduled meetings with people, but I did make some contact with tour guides and answered their questions about our region,” she said. “We have organized this delegation to come to B.C. in the spring and we’re very confident a lot of them are going to want to come to the Okanagan.”
Plante and Dancey said the trip was wonderful and amazing and everyone in the B.C. delegation had a wonderful time.
“I talked to a lot of people and not one scored the experience as less than an eight out of 10,’ said Plante.
“I’m really glad I went and hopefully we have established some relationships that are going to lead to some big benefits to local businesses in the future.”