Chinese Firms Dongdu Invests in Nova Scotia

Chinese tourism to Nova Scotia could blossom under a memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday in Halifax.

“The core idea of Chinese tourists travelling the world is central to this opportunity,” said Ron Smith, chief executive officer of Nova Scotia Business Inc., the province’s business development agency, after signing the memorandum with Marvin H.L. Li, chairman of Dongdu International Group of Shanghai.

“The chairman’s vision is that Nova Scotia will become a desirable location for Chinese tourists to be comfortable and have an experience that’s different and meaningful to them,” Smith said.
“More and more, they’re able and willing to travel overseas to do these things. That could lead to who knows what.”
The memorandum, also signed by Paul Kent, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Halifax Partnership, formalized Dongdu’s intentions to carry out a multi-phase investment and development plan in Halifax and other parts of Nova Scotia.
Dongdu, which calls itself a real estate, high technology and lifestyle-oriented company, has more than 20 years of business experience in China, Hong Kong and the United States.
The company has acquired nine properties and a property management company in Nova Scotia, its only Canadian investments to date.
It is renovating the Pacific Building on Barrington Street, a property it acquired last year. The building houses Chives restaurant.
Local Dongdu spokesman Stephen Dempsey, speaking for Li through an interpretor, didn’t put a dollar figure on the firm’s investment in Nova Scotia but said the company has a broad vision.
“It’s probably carried over 10 or even a 20-year time frame,” he said, acknowledging that tourism is a key part of the strategy.
“There are 100 million Chinese tourists travelling the world these days.”
Dempsey said Dongdu expects to begin a couple of projects this year in Guysborough County.
“We’re hoping to be in a position very soon to publicly disclose the nature of those projects,” he said.
“Primarily, the interest is in what we have in rural Nova Scotia, which is clean, green and pristine.”
According to a video on the company’s website, Dongdu plans a residential development called Indian Harbour Lakes to be built on 1,200 hectares of forest near St. Mary’s, Guysborough County.
The video describes a luxurious, eco-friendly hideway that will include villas with swimming pools, spas, tennis courts and stables.
Dempsey said Dongdu hopes to incorporate established local attractions in its Guysborough plans.
“For example, Sherbrooke Village is seen as an interesting component,” he said.
“(Dongdu) plans on integrating some of those local artisans into the project as that is developed.”
Guysborough County officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Dongdu’s long-term plans include resort developments, a Halifax technology centre and film production that could be used to expose Chinese tourists to Nova Scotia’s natural landscape.
“If there are films made here that are popular in China, people in China will think ‘Where is that? That’s a nice place, I’d like to go there,’ and that ties in with the tourism,” said Smith, who also couldn’t say how much Dongdu might invest in the province.
“They are certainly talking major investment.”
Dongdu has helped establish a tourism student exchange program between Mount Saint Vincent University’s tourism program and China East Normal University in Shanghai, Dempsey said.
“They’ve already worked on a strategy to integrate Nova Scotia’s tourism strategy to the Chinese market.”
Li said in a news release that several factors prompted his company’s investment in Nova Scotia.
“Nova Scotia and Halifax have an abundance of well-educated people, many universities and international students, beautiful scenery, interesting tourist attractions, as well as superior transportation linkages and emerging new technologies, all of which make it a compelling location for (Dongdu) to establish its first Canadian location.”
Kent said the partnership, which markets Halifax as a business destination, looked forward to working with Dongdu to explore economic opportunities for the municipality and the province.
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