Damian Inwood, The Province, Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More than 100 delegations will likely host meetings this summer at a $14.7-million Beijing trade-and-tourism pavilion aimed at attracting new business to B.C. and Canada, says Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen.

"We're hoping for one delegation for every day it's open," said Hansen yesterday. "Our hope is that after this pavilion closes, we will have one of the best Rolodexes in China."

The B.C.-Canada Pavilion will be open for 120 days from May 22 to Sept. 18, coinciding with the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

Already, 20 delegations have signed up to use the 21,000-square-foot exhibition and meeting space, just off Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

The pavilion is a much bigger version of the log house that drew more than 100,000 visitors during the Turin 2006 Winter Games and resulted in $30 million in free media advertising for B.C. and Canada.

Hansen said he hopes to at least double the amount of media attention in Beijing.

Officials estimate that 400,000 people will visit the Beijing pavilion, each paying about $4 to get in, he said.

Business sectors signed up to use the pavilion include high-tech, life sciences and medical devices, new media, clean energy, advanced education, forest products, agri-food, film and TV, tourism, environmental, transportation and music.

B.C. communities on board include Prince George, Kamloops, Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler and Sea-to-Sky corridor communities.

Organizations include the Vancouver Board of Trade, Life Science B.C., B.C. Film and the B.C. Centre for International Education.

The B.C. government is funding the pavilion to the tune of $8 million, with Tourism B.C. and the federal government each contributing a further $3 million.

Corporate sponsors include HBC, Teck Cominco, Haworth, Jade West and ASPAC Developments.

"We've had doors opened to us in Beijing we never would have had and that gives us an opportunity to showcase B.C. and Canada to key decision-makers in the corporate community and the government community in China," Hansen said.

From a tourism perspective, there is a huge opportunity for attracting Chinese visitors even without Canada being part of the Approved Destination Status program.

"Incentive travel is growing tremendously in China," said Hansen. "As you get people moving into cities and taking up great new jobs, companies are trying to find other ways of compensating employees.

"If they meet their targets, a group of employees get a trip to Canada and that will be a big focus of our efforts."