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A promising future for the Global Tourism Economy Forum

The first Global Tourism Economy Forum hosted in Macau 2012 delivered what it promised to be: a place to exchange ideas and debate with some of the most prominent travel and tourism stakeholders to help reaffirm the strong benefits of tourism to economies. And also to identify future trends…

MACAU- The Global Tourism Economy Forum, Macau 2012 (“GTEF”) finally achieved its objective to become of tourism’s most prominent international events. The first edition took place at Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Centre from September 9 to 11 and was conjointly organized and hosted by the Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao SAR Government, the China Chamber of Tourism under the authorization of All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce (ACFIC) and coordinated by the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre.

The Forum was initiated under the theme “Growth Driving Growth: The synergistic interplay of tourism and economic development”, at a time of economic uncertainties impacting a large part of the world. In front of an audience of 1,000 delegates from 20 countries, speakers demonstrated the utmost importance of the travel industry.

With the encouraging trend into political circles that tourism is playing a pivotal role in driving global economic growth and its political recognition could certainly have a positive influence in views of discriminating policies such as high taxations in tourism and air transport. “We must all join hands together and fight against unfair taxation and discriminating practices against the freedom to travel,” advocated Martin Craigs, PATA CEO.

The Forum strived to establish an exchange and cooperation platform connecting domestic and foreign entities, to gather views and opinion from industry leaders, experts and intellectual in a cross-industry and cross-region manner, to create synergies and to explore cooperative opportunities in order to open the door of mutual cooperation among leaders around the world and across industries, therefore to promote tourism industry as a new bright spot of economic growth in China and the rest of the world.

The tourism sector shows effectively a remarkable resilience by prospering and recording growth despite a lacklustre volatile economic environment. “Over the past four years, tourism has been severely affected by economic problems and in this region by natural catastrophes. Nevertheless, tourism in the world, in Asia and in China continues to develop,” highlighted Shao Qiwei Chairman of CNTA (China National Tourism Administration). “Asia has driven growth over the last decade and it is likely that it will continue,” echoed David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

In his speech, South Africa Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk talked about a slowdown in global travel and tourism GDP of 2.8 % for 2012 according to the WTTC while the UNWTO expects that growth in arrivals should be in a range of 3% to 4%. “While mature markets such as Europe stagnates, we, in the emerging-market economies are boosting global tourism flows and outbound spend. By 2015, emerging economies are expected to account for 40% of all global departures”, explained the Minister.

Tourism plays then an essential role those days for driving economic growth by boosting domestic expenditures and creating more job opportunities. But it also represents increasing challenges. “International tourist arrivals grew from 25 million in 1950 to 983 million in 2011. Behind the global statistics lies an even greater success story- the growth of tourism in Asia-Pacific. International tourist arrivals in this part of the world reached a total of 217 million last year compared to 23 million in 1980. In 2030, these international arrivals are likely expected to represent 535 million. Can this remarkable, long-term increase be sustained economically, socially and environmentally? What are the implications for sustainable tourism development worldwide?” questioned Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development during its opening remarks.

A sustainable tourism development is hard to accept according to Anthony Wong, especially in Asia. “Unfortunately, many travel players look at only short term benefits as they have to report annually profits to their shareholders. We then have to explain them the financial benefits and cost savings a sustainable tourism policy will be able to generate,” he declared. More efforts should be done to let communities be in charge of tourism. “The majority of the population lives now in cities. Cities are centres of creativity and innovation. Our responsibility as citizens which inherited of these places is to return it to future generations in a better shape than we received it. Cities have to provide a “Sense of Place” especially as we all belong to that community,” said Eddie Friel, expert in Hospitality training and research Niagara University in the USA.

During two days of debates, guests and speakers of the Forum evaluated and were engaged in lively dialogue on five red-hot topics related to tourism economy, namely Mega Events and Festivals, Emerging New Markets, Technology and Media, Destination Planning and Lifestyle and Entertainment, striving on a common goal to drive tourism development for the creation of mutual benefits between tourism and economy.

Host Macau represented a perfect venue as it is an accomplished example of a successful tourism destination thanks to the leading vision of its territory and national leaders who sees tourism as its most essential factor to the growth of its economy and people’s wealth. “Macau shows also the very good balance between East and West cultures and the ability to merge them. This Forum is in fact inscribed into Macau’s tradition of being a bridge between cultures. We will now continue to work and enhance this forum to make it an even more successful event for next year. And I will be please to welcome all of you again in mid September 2013”, concluded Pansy Ho, Chairwoman of Global Tourism Economy and Research Centre and Vice Chairman & Secretary General of the Forum.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.