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Building Tourism – the First Largest Industry in the World

Due to the gradual scarcity of global energy resources and the daily raising of requirements for environment, the global economic pattern must be adjusted. Transforming the mode of economic development and promoting the optimization and upgrading of the industrial structure have become strategic issues that we must face, answer and makes choices about.

Tourism is low-carbon and environmentally-friendly, has a long industry chain, and is of special significance to stimulating employment, promoting growth, and transforming the mode of development. Developing tourism has become a top priority and a key breakthrough point of a number of countries and regions today.

1. World tourism: The largest industry that marches toward the new fields

The largest industry of the current world is not automobile and petroleum but tourism. As early as the beginning of 1990s, the economic aggregate of tourism accounted for more than 10% of the world’s GDP, and its number of employed people amounted to over 8% of the total global employment. Tourism has superseded automobile and petroleum as the largest industry in the world. It has increasingly become an important symbol of modern economy and social development.

First, tourism is the sunrise industry with a bright prospect for development.
According to a report by the World Tourism Organization (WTO), by 2020, 1.6 billion international tourists will be received worldwide, the tourist consumption will amount to USD 2 trillion, and the average annual growth rate of tourists and that of tourist consumption will stand at 4.35% and 6.7% respectively, far higher than an average annual growth rate of 3% of global wealth. Tourism also features small investment, fast effects, absence of pollution, and permanent benefit. It is a real sunrise industry, low carbon industry, green industry, and people’s industry. Developing tourism is an inevitable choice of all countries to accomplish sustainable development.

Next, tourism is the important driving power for the recovery of the world economy.
According to WTO statistics, an income of 1 RMB from tourism can yield an income of 4 RMB for related industries, and a new tourist job can create 4.2 jobs for related industries. Tourist consumption plays a significant role and accounts for a large proportion in total social demand, especially residential consumption demand. With the international financial crisis still maintaining its presence, tourism boosts consumption in all countries and provides a strong impetus for economic revival and development.

Lastly, tourism is the important carrier for the promotion of a country’s power of influence.
Tourism activities can deepen the exchange and communications between the different regions, different nations, different cultures, and different societies, and can directly manifest a country’s international image and status. The countries with powerful and thriving tourism in the world all have encompassed culture in the whole process of tourism development, transmitting their native cultures to other parts of the world through the cultivation of influential tourism brands and thus promoting the national influences.

2. China’s tourism is becoming the strategic pillar industry of the national economy

China’s tourism has enormous potential for development. On the one hand, China boasts rich and diverse natural tourism resources and splendid cultural tourism resources. On the other hand, the promotion of international prestige and the very fast increase of people’s income in the country have both created the favorable conditions for the accelerated development of China’s tourism industry.

Currently China has ushered in a period of fast growth in tourism demands, and the tourism industry has entered the period of quick development. From 2004 to 2008, China’s inbound tourism increased from 110 million person times to 130 million person times, an annual increase of 6.8%. The foreign exchange earning from tourism increased from 25.7 billion U.S. dollars to 40.8 billion U.S. dollars, an annual increase of 11.7%. In recent years outbound tourism has also experienced rapid increase, from 28.85 million person times in 2004 to 45.84 million person times in 2008, an annual increase of 16.7%. China has become the fourth largest receiving nation for inbound tourism, next only to France, America, and Spain. The World Tourism Organization predicts that by 2015 China will be the world’s largest receiving nation for inbound tourism and the fourth largest tourist source country for outbound tourism.

With the all-round economic and social development in China, the Chinese government has been attaching greater and greater importance to the development of tourism. At the end of last year the State Council promulgated The Opinion on Accelerating the Development of Tourism, which definitely points out that tourism shall be developed into the strategic pillar industry of national economy and the modern service industry more satisfactory to people, and that the development of tourism shall be elevated from the industrial, departmental, and economic levels to the strategic level of national development. The promulgation of the Opinion signifies that China’s tourism has entered the national strategic system and ushers in the new round of upsurge of China’s tourism.

3. Beijing tourism: Build world-class tourist city and embark upon the march toward the “World City”

Beijing is the capital of China, as well as a city with the concentrated tourism resources in China and the world-renowned tourist destination. Currently Beijing has entered a new phase of building the modern international metropolis on a full scale. It is striding toward the top-level form of building international metropolis—world city. In this process, Beijing shall foster and develop tourism as an advantageous and important pillar industry, and push forward in full swing the building of internationally first-rate tourism city. The grand development of tourism and the building of internationally first-rate tourism city is the first step for Beijing to march toward the world city.

For a long time, Beijing municipal government has attached great importance to the development of tourism. It has mapped out the tourism development strategy of “propelling development with the double wheels of investment and consumption, fostering the dual urban and rural markets, and cultivating common development through regional cooperation”. Beijing’s tourism is gradually developing into the important pillar industry and the new economic growth point. However, judging by the current situation, Beijing’s tourism and even the tourism of China as a whole is still at the primary stage of development. Compared with the world cities, Beijing is still lagging far behind in its tourism development.

Firstly, there is lack of awareness as to the importance of the tourism industry, and no consensuses have been reached within society on developing tourism as an industry. Secondly, policy support is improper and industry discriminations exist. Thirdly, an overall, forward-looking, and high-level tourist development plan urgently needs to be mapped out. Lastly, the tourist structure is not perfectly reasonable: low-end sightseeing tourism grows rapidly, recreational tourist products are in short supply, and high-end commerce, convention & exhibition, and incentive tourism lags behind.

Although Beijing’s tourism still has a very long way to go before meeting the standard of world city, more than thirty years of reform and opening and the successful hosting of the Olympic Games have pushed forward the sustained and fast development of Beijing’s tourism. Now, Beijing has possessed the advantages and conditions for the new round of grand development.

First, the successful hosting of the 29th Olympic Games has ushered in the brand-new period of development for Beijing’s tourism.
The successful hosting of the Olympic Games has significantly boosted Beijing’s international influence. The city’s level of internationalization has been boosted by a large margin, the air quality and the urban environment have been continuously improved, and the service levels of transportation, businesses, hotels, and catering have been remarkably promoted. A batch of landmark Olympic venues has become the new highlights of tourism, which manifest Beijing’s greater openness, modernization, and internationalization. The Olympic Games marks a new starting point for Beijing’s tourism and a brand-new period of development of Beijing’s tourism.

Second, the unique advantages in resources and location have created favorable conditions for the development of tourism.
With a history of over three thousand years as a city and a history of more than 850 years as a capital, Beijing is the world-renowned ancient capital, which possesses a very profound historical and cultural legacy, and a wide variety of world-reputed places of historic interest, such as the Imperial Palace and the Great Wall. These have formed a very powerful magnetism for tourism. As the capital of China, Beijing has assembled the great numbers of China’s central Party, government, and military organs, the embassies of foreign countries to China, and the various international organizations. It is the major venue for the hosting of national activities, international conventions, important international competitions, and cultural exchange activities. All these have created extremely favorable conditions for exploiting the high-end tourism market, such as relaxation and holiday-taking, convention, incentive, and business exhibitions. Beijing is also an international exchange center. As the largest international transfer station for passenger transport in the country, Beijing has the advantage in excellent market location, and possesses the great radiating power and thriving tourism consumption.

Thirdly, Beijing’s sustained and rapid economic and social development has laid a solid foundation for the development of tourism.
Judging from the macro environment of development, Beijing leads the country in social and economic development. In 2009, the city’s regional gross production value reached one trillion Yuan. The per capita regional gross production value surpassed 10,000 U.S. dollars. The proportion of tertiary industry reached 75.8%, which provides a solid economic foundation for tourism. As for the development of tourism in itself, Beijing has taken the lead in the country. Through long years of development, Beijing’s tourism ranks in the forefront in terms of both scale and tourism revenue.

Fourthly, the building of world city will provide even broader space of development for Beijing’s tourism industry.
The proposal of the strategic goal of building Beijing into a world city creates a wider space for the development of Beijing’s tourism, and raises new and higher requirements for promoting the sound and fast development of tourism.
In the process of building itself into a world city, Beijing will draw upon experience of development of internationally recognized world cities, speed up the development of tourism, and completely promote Beijing’s march towards becoming a first-class international tourist city and an international capital of conventions and exhibitions.

Through efforts for some time to come, Beijing will achieve the goal of building a first-class international tourist city, with profits from tourist income accounting for over 10% of the GDP of the city. The Beijing of the future will have an annual inbound tourist income of over USD 10 billion, and receive over 10 million international tourists and 200 million domestic tourists.

An Address for the 10th WTTC Forum in Beijing, China by Ding Xiangyang, Vice Mayor of Beijing

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