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Confidence in Asian tourism industry to be restored

Representatives of governments and the private sector from 48 countries and territories gathered at the…

Representatives of governments and the private sector from 48 countries and territories gathered at the Conference on International Cooperation for Tourism Development under a New Paradigm: Revitalizing Asian Tourism, held in Hong Kong from July 14 – 15.

The conference was co-organized by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the BOAO Forum for Asia, an international Forum established in 2001. Hosted by the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), it is the largest international conference in Hong Kong since the lifting of the travel advisory against the region from the list of SARS affected areas by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Participants to the conference comprised of high-level officials from tourism ministries and tourism associations of Asian countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as their counterparts from Canada, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand. International tourism organizations like the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Pacific Islands Forum were also represented at the conference. Business executives attending the conference represent all sectors of the industry, including aviation, hotel, travel agency, investment and financing organizations, information and media companies, tourist destinations, food and beverage production, as well as municipal and regional trade associations.

Opening the conference were, Mr. Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of WTO; Mr. Tung Chee-Hwa, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Mr. Yongtu Long, Secretary-General of BOAO Forum for Asia.

In his opening speech Mr. Frangialli described the event as a conference that could not have come at a more opportune moment. The convening of the event indicated that Hong Kong, China and the entire Asian region have overcome the worst impact of SARS and that tourism will not wither from SARS, he said.

Mr. Frangialli emphasized that the World Tourism Organization intends to contribute to the starting of a new cycle of prosperity by a landmark decision and officially announced during the opening ceremony that the WTO General Assembly will go ahead as planned in Beijing in mid October – in the course of which the WTO will be transformed into a specialized agency of the United Nations.

He concluded in saying that this historical world tourism summit will send a signal of confidence and support from WTO to the nation of China, to the Asian tourism industry, and to all our members in the region. The WTO General Assembly in Beijing will confirm that tourism is back on track and will soon re-emerge as it once was – a vigorous and powerful engine for economic development in the entire region.

Topics of the panel discussions for the two-day conference included Governments` Role in Revitalizing Asian Tourism, Role of the Industry in Revitalizing Asian Tourism and Promotion of Intra-regional Tourism in the Asia-Pacific Region. The highlight of the conference was the Ministerial Round Table Meeting, held on the second conference day and moderated by the WTO Secretary-General. The Round Table served as an in-depth interactive discussion for considering policy recommendations on revitalizing Asian tourism, upon which the Hong Kong Declaration was based.

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