THE Department of Tourism (DOT) said it is nearing its goal of attracting a million visitors from mainland China this year with new partnerships forged with Chinese tour operators.
In a news statement issued from Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said her agency has been able to convince the Hanglv International Travel Group to further boost the already thriving tourism route between China and the Philippines.
Hanglv is a giant charter operator based in Chengdu, with offices in Chongqing, Wuhan, Changsha, Guiyang, Beijing and Guangzhou. Its major business portfolio is to bring more Chinese tourists to the Philippines, the DOT said.
“With improved diplomatic relations between Manila and Beijing since President Duterte’s state visit to China and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, we are assured of a more bustling business and people-to-people exchanges between our two nations,” Teo added.
Teo is in Chengdu to attend the ongoing 22nd General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a global organization dedicated to improving international tourism and documenting the growth and movement of international travel.
With the DOT chief is Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito Bengzon Jr. They met their counterparts at the InterContinental Hotel in Chengdu, where they bagged new flights between Changsha and Kalibo, and Chongqing and Kalibo thrice weekly.
“As soon as the Civil Aviation Authority of China grants clearance to the Puerto Princesa International Airport, more chartered flights from other Chinese cities and provinces could be expected,” Teo said. This includes flights between Wuhan and Puerto Princesa, and between Changsha and Puerto Princesa.
Teo, likewise, proposed to Hanglv to consider mounting chartered flights to Davao, Laoag and Clark. She personally invited the group to visit and discover Davao as a destination.
At the UNWTO General Assembly, meanwhile, Teo echoed the Manila Call for Action, rallying over 90 countries for a shared responsibility in sustainable tourism. “The Manila Call for Action is our contribution to the urgent need for policy directions in sustainable practices, such as use of energy, water and land, solid waste management, and curbing greenhouse effect of tourism activities,” she stressed.
More than 1,300 delegates from over 130 countries attended the opening of the UNWTO General Assembly on Wednesday. Over four days, participants will discuss the priorities of the organization for 2018-2019, the transformation of the UNWTO Code of Ethics for Tourism into an International Convention and the impact of technology on tourism will center the discussions. In a news statement, the UNWTO said, also on the agenda of the assembly, is the election of a new secretary-general for the next four years.
“China is an inspiration to others in terms of its supportive tourism policies and in placing tourism at the center of its poverty alleviation and national development strategies,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at the opening of the 22nd session of the general assembly. “Besides being the fourth most-visited country in the world, with 59 million international arrivals in 2016, China is also the largest domestic tourism market, with 4.4 billion trips made within its borders,” he added.
Rifai also recalled the relevance of holding the general assembly, the last under his term, within the framework of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017. “I feel very proud to have contributed to expanding the capacity of travel and tourism to the progress of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] that guide our common action to 2030. This general assembly is a unique opportunity to continue advancing together,” he said.
Wang Yang, vice premier of the People’s Republic of China, recalled that, since the inclusion of China in UNWTO in 1983, the tourism sector has grown to represent 10 percent of the country’s economy. Wang confirmed that “smart tourism” will guide the development of the sector and highlighted the need to enforce policies to enhance sustainable tourism.
The vice premier also mentioned that the inherently sustainable approach to tourism in China resulted from the traditional harmony between man and nature widely present in Chinese culture. In addition, he underlined the relevance of increasing cooperation among countries in the field of tourism, especially in crisis situations such as natural disasters. He further noted that 6 million jobs related to tourism have been created in 2016 in China, particularly for women, people with disabilities and rural communities.
“UNWTO is irreplaceable for its role of supporting the multiple dimensions of the tourism sector, as well as its wide potential,” Wang added.
The UNWTO General Assembly will discuss the Chengdu Declaration on “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals”. The document, in which the potential of the tourism sector is underlined in economic, social and political terms, includes 19 articles that, among others, recommend to governments “to develop an integrated and holistic approach to tourism policy in order to leverage the sector’s positive impact and multiplying effect on people, planet and prosperity [Article 1].”
In addition, it proposes “to undertake national assessments on tourism’s contribution and commitment to the SDGs and ensure the inclusion of tourism in interministerial SDG commissions and/or working groups as well as to enhance the contribution of tourism in SDGs national strategies through the set up of institutional frameworks and mechanisms that allow participation of all stakeholders.”
Rifai stressed: “To advance, the tourism sector should decouple growth from environmental harm; fight climate change throughout the entire tourism value chain; measure the impacts of travelers every day accurately and regularly, and promote accessibility for all.” He added: “Furthermore, we need to ensure the benefits of the sector reach communities, and prevent negative impacts on their social fabrics by tackling issues such as overcrowding, protect the weak from being exploited in our sector, prevent leakages and address global and tourism-sector security challenges without compromising people’s rights, particularly to freedom of travel and movement.”