Tourism drives economic devt: leaders

Updated: 2012-09-11 06:54

By Li Tao(HK Edition)

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Tourism drives economic devt: leaders

The opening ceremony of the Global Tourism Economy Forum is held in Macao on Sunday. The forum has attracted industry leaders worldwide to discuss hot topics in tourism eocnomy. Kenrick Lee / China Daily

Tourism drives economic devt: leaders

Macao's tourists-dollar-supported economy cited as successful example

The tourism sector is now one of the only growth highlights of the current lackluster global economy, and it plays a pivotal role in driving economic growth by synergetically boosting domestic expenditures and creating more job opportunities, industry leaders worldwide told a forum in Macao this week.

"The synergetic effect of tourism and (an) economy is extremely inspiring and significant these days, particularly after the international financial crisis when many countries had to undergo economic restructuring and transformation to counter the challenges facing them," Huang Mengfu, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce (ACFIC), said at the Global Tourism Economy Forum held in Macao.

The three-day forum, themed "Growth driving growth: the synergistic interplay of tourism and economic development," highlighted the tourism sector's importance in driving the national economic growth from various aspects, which is imminent particularly as the global economy is headed towards recovery, Huang said during the opening ceremony of the forum which commenced on Sunday. China Daily is a media partner at the forum and will host a special panel discussion themed "Media & Technology" to be held today.

After experiencing temporary declines in 2008 and 2009, the global tourism sector subsequently revived, with international arrivals rising 6.7 percent and 4.5 percent over 2010 and 2011, respectively, according to Shao Qiwei, chairman of the National Tourism Administration, who expected the global tourism sector's growth to achieve another 3 to 4 percent this year.

The global tourism industry is able to lead the recovery of the overall global economy due to its unique advantages, which represent a strong degree of comprehensiveness with other economic sectors, and on the other hand, also promotes, as an engine of growth, development of other businesses as well, said Shao.

Developed economies including the US, European Union as well as Japan have all adjusted their economic structures by highlighting the tourism industry's importance as an "international strategy", and hope to boost domestic consumption through attracting overseas tourists as well as creating new jobs for the country, Shao said.

With increasing consciousness of tourism's importance, the Chinese government has also demonstrated its commitment to this sector by putting it at the center of economic growth and development, resulting in abundant social-economic achievements in the country over the years, according to Shao, who added the tourism industry has made great impact to the overall economic growth from the primary industry to the tertiary industry.

International tourist arrivals surged to 983 million in 2011 from a mere 25 million recorded back in 1950 - a new historic milestone for the industry - and tourism's growth is a successful story in globalization and the interdependent world in the past decades, Sha Zukang, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic & Social Affairs and the Secretary-General for UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012, noted during the same occasion.

"Behind the global statistics lie an even greater success story - the tourism growth in Asia and the Pacific," said Sha, adding that international tourist arrivals in the region reached a total of 217 million last year over only 23 million in 1980. This compares with the over 95 percent market share dominance of international tourist arrivals from Europe and the US back in the 1950s.

Joao Manuel Costa Antunes, chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and director of Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), said Macao itself is a classic case which showcased how the tourism industry could interplay with the city's economic growth.

Macao's economy, whose gambling industry is backed by tourists, has only seen record growth since the city liberalized the gaming industry in 2002 and introduced the Individual Visit Scheme allowing mainland people to visit the former Portuguese enclave in 2003, after its hand-over to China in 1999.

The buoyant gaming growth in Macao not only brings in high volumes of visitor arrivals, but also stimulates the city's hotel business as well as its local retail business spurred by visitors' huge spending, said Antunes.

Taking the hotel sector as an example, Antunes said there were 96 hotels in Macao as of August, 2011, with a total room supply of 22,383. Only a year later, hotel numbers in Macao have increased to 101 with a total room supply of 25,108, representing a 12.2 percent year-on-year growth.

"Tourism can play a critical role in the recovery process in the face of economic downturn, particularly between 2003 and 2008, when Macao experienced recession during that period," Antunes added.

Today, Macao's economy has surpassed Las Vegas and has become the world's biggest gambling market by revenue by the end of 2006. By the end of 2011, over 50,000 local residents of the city's working population of 345,000 people were working in the gaming sector.

"There could be no better place other than Macao to hold a tourism economy forum," said Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), adding that the tourism sector, which recovered most rapidly from the financial crisis, accounts for around 9 percent of the total world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) today.

But all the industry leaders should also be aware of some immediate challenges to the sector, which includes the repressed travel facilities, the difficulties in applying for a visa to visit another country, the excessive visa fees, and the lawless tax charges on tourists, a problem which needs the governments' joint efforts to cope with such issues, said Rifai.

The first-ever tourism economy forum held in Macao this time will also discuss a wide range of hot topics related to the tourism economy, including Mega Events and Festivals, Emerging New Markets, Technology and Media, Destination Planning and Lifestyle and Entertainment. The event is scheduled to end on September 11.

(HK Edition 09/11/2012 page2)