Interview: Chairman of the Chinese National Tourism Administration

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The UNWTO General Assembly Daily spoke with the Chairman of the Chinese National Tourism Administration, Li Jinzao, shared here.

Q. China has become one of the leading tourism destinations in the world in recent years. What are the prospects for the future of the sector in China and the main objectives set for tourism?

A. China’s tourism sector had a relatively late start and a weak foundation. Yet due to over 30 years of hard work since the reform of its tourism sector, China has become the world’s biggest outbound tourism consumer and the fourth-largest international destination, with the biggest domestic tourism market. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2016 tourism made a contribution of 11% to China’s national economy and of some 10.3% to social employment. Tourism plays a big role in, and greatly impacts upon, China’s socioeconomic development and enables China to exert more influence on the international stage. China has now entered the era of mass tourism; its tourism sector is unleashing larger potential and has much room for further development. As China continuously promotes all-for-one tourism – integrated tourism products and services – its tourism sector will keep being enhanced. China vows to turn itself into a world tourism power by 2040 through the implementation of a three-step strategy: step one, change from an extensive tourism country to a relatively intensive tourism country (2015-2020); step two, become an intensive tourism country (2021-2030); and step three, become a highly intensive world tourism power (2031-2040).

Q. We always highlight that tourism is much more than economic development. In your opinion, what are the fields in which tourism has a strong influence?

A. Tourism not only drives economic development, but also highly impacts upon people’s happiness, livelihoods and quality of life. It is highly inclusive and has many socioeconomic benefits – not only enhancing people’s knowledge, experience, personal development and empowerment, but also alleviating poverty, promoting employment, and increasing income and living standards.

Q. Can you further elaborate the connection of Tourism with Happiness?

A. Tourism is a sector of happiness. Travel can enable us to get close to history, culture and nature, ensure good health, relax and meet spiritual needs. Tourism can also be fully integrated with the worlds of culture, education, sports and health to create new business models, and bring happiness to the public in more and better ways. Tourism is a sector of beauty. Through travelling, people can discover and enjoy beauty, care for beauty, and enjoy and spread beauty. It is also a sector of peace, inspiring communication and friendship between people from different countries, regions and ethnic groups. Well-managed, ethical travel can promote harmonious coexistence between man and nature, along with low resource consumption and sustainable development. In recent years, China has been actively advancing structural reform on the supply side of its tourism sector and giving great impetus to all-for-one tourism development and the ‘tourism+’ concept. As a result, tourism has become integrated into China’s whole social landscape and is a strategic pillar of the national economy.

Q. One of the initiatives in focus at this General Assembly is the Belt and Road Initiative. Can you briefly describe its relevance and impact?

A. Four years ago, President Xi Jinping proposed to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Road, collectively named the Belt and Road Initiative. This has since been supported and signed up to by over 100 countries and international organizations. The initiative complies with the interests of the development community and has a promising future. Important resolutions of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the UN Security Council have been included in the creation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Now, the proposal has moved from concept to reality, delivering fruitful outcomes. Policy communication, interconnectivity, trade, investment, and increased contact between people have been promoted between China and Belt and Road countries and organizations.

Q. In your opinion, how tourism can enhance higher cooperation?

A. Tourism plays a leading role in increasing communication. Many of the cooperation agreements signed between China and over 60 countries and international organizations emphasize the active role of tourism in promoting communication – including in connecting people, which is the social foundation of the Belt and Road Initiative. The tourism sector’s cross-cutting nature and strong promotional potential make it an important channel for promoting contact between people, as well as economic development, industrial transformation, employment and improved livelihoods along the Belt and Road. China is willing to strengthen tourism cooperation and exchange views on development concepts with Belt and Road countries to promote intercultural communication, achieve balanced, diversified and sustainable development, and make tourism an effective for people in countries along this route to bond.

Q. China has positioned tourism as a pillar of its development. What is your vision of tourism’s capacity to contribute to a better world and ensure the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

A. Whilst UN Sustainable Development Goals 8, 12 and 14 directly refer to tourism, the sector has a bearing on the entire sustainable development agenda. Tourism can encourage growth, employment, investment, creation of startups, independent and inclusive development of communities, and environment, biodiversity and cultural heritage preservation. To illustrate this, the UN General Assembly has designated the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. In 2016, the First World Conference on Tourism for Development was successfully held in Beijing and adopted the Beijing Declaration, a global consensus to promote sustainable tourism development. In this regard China is willing to join hands with other countries, on the principles of openness and innovation, to promote inclusive and sustainable development of tourism, establish a new international relationship centered around cooperation and mutual benefits, and make its due contribution to attaining a more peaceful and prosperous world.