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'Closed Skies Cost Us'


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'Closed skies' costs us

Greater access to YVR by carriers from China,

India key to airport's success

Jim Jamieson -- The Province -- November 9, 2004

B.C. is losing out on the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars of tourism business because Canada has no open-skies agreement with Asia's two giant economies, China and India. Restrictions on air travel between Canada and emerging countries, particularly China, was highlighted as one of the keys to the future prosperity of Vancouver International Airport yesterday at Forum '44 -- a two-day symposium aimed at looking at YVR's next 40 years.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell told reporters following his address that it's crucial for Vancouver International to have greater access to Asia. "Open skies means we don't have the restrictions we do now," he said. "That's a critical part of opening up opportunities." Earlier, Campbell told a group of about 160 -- business people, environmentalists, airline and tourism industry officials and engaged citizens -- that India has the fastest growing middle class in the world and that housing construction in China is four times that of the U.S.

Vancouver International Airport Authority vice-president of finance Tony Gugliotta said moving toward a more open-skies policy is a key issue for the Canadian airline industry and YVR. "The way we can market our business is constrained by the negotiated agreement the federal government has with the country we're trying to expand service with," he said.

Gugliotta said the federal government has requested a renegotiation of the agreements with China and received a positive response. It's expected that formal discussions will begin in the spring. Currently Canada is restricted by the agreement with China -- its current GDP of $1 trillion US is projected to reach $26 trillion by 2040 -- to two carriers and 15 flights per week. Air Canada flies to Beijing and Shanghai daily, while two Chinese carriers fly to Vancouver.

Canada currently has open-skies agreements -- any carrier can fly to any city in Canada as often as they want and vice-versa -- only with the U.S., the U.K. and Germany. About 40 per cent of Canada's agreements with 70 countries don't allow the foreign carrier to come to Vancouver, Gugliotta said. The biggest issue to work out with the Chinese, said Gugliotta, is getting Canada on China's list of Approved Destination Status (ADS) countries. Currently, individuals from China can travel individually to Canada, but not tour groups. ADS would open the gates for tour groups. After Australia began receiving Chinese tours in 2002, Chinese visitors increased by 38 per cent. "There's a huge opportunity lost because we don't have [ADS]," said Gugliotti.

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