Chair, Governor of Khabarovsk Region, Excellencies, Ministers, Senior Officials, ladies and gentlemen—good morning. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you all and say a few words on the role of tourism in the context of APEC’s 2012 priorities.
Before that, please allow me to thank the Administration and people of Khabarovsk Region and of the Russian Federation for hosting this ministerial.
Khabarovsk is an appropriate backdrop for today’s discussion given its strong tourism credentials. These of course include Khabarovsk’s picturesque boulevards, vibrant shops and local market, and renovations to the city center that have admirably preserved its rich historical perspective.
Khabarovsk is also a fitting venue when you consider its cosmopolitan environment and expanding business and leisure travel links with the APEC region.
More than a million travelers come to Khabarovsk annually from China alone, the border of which is only around 30km away. And foreign investment by companies, particularly from neighboring Japan and Korea, continues to grow and is luring more visitors.
Tourism as an economic pillar
Together, APEC’s 21 member economies are both a major tourist magnet and reservoir from where tourists are drawn.
In 2010, APEC economies attracted over 40 percent of total international tourist arrivals worldwide and generated more than 40 percent of global visitor exports, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Economic expansion, rising incomes and improving tourism infrastructure, particularly among developing APEC members, are helping to increase tourist flows.
Over the next ten years, APEC’s visitor exports are expected to grow 4.7 percent annually. And by 2021, they are predicted to occupy a 3.9 percent share of APEC's total exports at US$750.7 billion.
The broader economic value of this tourist traffic is equally significant.
Travel and tourism contributed 8.3 percent to APEC economies’ GDP in 2011, worth US$3.22 trillion. This accounted for over half of the industry’s contribution to global GDP.
For businesses that deal directly with tourists – from hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services, to restaurants and leisure operations – the APEC region’s tourism boom is offering a critical boost.
It is also providing a lift to workers. More than 120 million jobs were supported by the travel and tourism industry in APEC economies in 2011. This represents 8.4 percent of total employment in the region.
Supporting APEC’s priorities
All of this is welcome news. And it is consistent with APEC’s Growth Strategy which identifies tourism development as an essential contributor to the region’s economic sustainability and inclusive growth.
Efforts by APEC member economies to drive travel and tourism development are delivering on APEC’s 2012 priorities, including the strengthening of free trade and investment, and regional economic integration.
APEC is, for example, encouraging member economies to adopt legal and tax incentive best practice to promote the flow of industry capital in the region and foster tourism business development.
The issue of tourist safety and security, to bolster confidence and protect tourist traffic growth, continues to be actively addressed by member economies and stakeholders.
This includes moving forward with the development of guidelines on ensuring tourist safety. The guidelines will, among other things, help member economies provide more timely and verified information on security risks to tourists, and improve emergency communications to extend more effective tourist assistance in the event of incident.
APEC is also promoting the adoption of enhanced air passenger screening and risk management platforms such as Trusted Traveler Programs. The alignment of these initiatives will create a more integrated, seamless regional travel system.
Meanwhile, APEC is endeavoring to coordinate and expand air transport and tourism liberalization policies and cooperation agreements.
The aim is to establish frameworks for greater connectivity and capacity building, advancing APEC’s 2012 priority to develop more reliable supply-chains.
And it fits in with the implementation of the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative to expedite movement across the region, with the goal of enabling more efficient, more secure, and less stressful travel.
Ways to enhance the APEC Business Travel Card scheme to make visa and entry procedures simpler and more transparent for more than 100,000 active cardholders and counting, also remain a focus. This can help to further strengthen cross-border business tourism in the region.
To increase visitor mobility and demand for tourism goods and services more broadly, APEC is providing guidance on the optimization of advanced passenger information and checked baggage procedures.
At the same time, APEC is considering cutting-edge approaches for the creation of new business growth opportunities in the tourism sector, in line with APEC’s priority to enhance innovation in the region.
To this end, member economies and stakeholders are exploring the use and impact of niche markets such as cruises, meetings, incentives, conferences and events, and ecotourism.
Specific work is being done to pinpoint replicable, commercially successful niche market strategies and develop guidance for their adoption in APEC economies.
Participation from the private sector is critical to putting these strategies into practice. But training is also necessary to ensure that the businesses they foster are run and managed effectively, profitably and in ways that extend economic and social benefits to local people.
APEC is working to deepen industry inclusiveness through initiatives that, for example, promote the identification of best practices for the implementation of information technology and communications which can enhance rural community tourism businesses.
New methods and strategies for advancing the sustainable development of tourism destinations and businesses are also being considered, with reference to various regional and global experiences and lessons learned.
Such efforts are collectively helping to realize the shared objective to develop tourism as an engine for sustainable, inclusive growth and prosperity in the region.
Thank you for your time today.