by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE reopening of China has been hailed as the final piece in global tourism recovery from the biggest crisis in the sector’s history.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) warmly welcomed the lifting of travel restrictions as a major boost to economic growth after the COVID-19 pandemic cost destinations worldwide a combined US$270 billion in Chinese outbound tourist spending in 2020 and 2021 alone.
Zurab Pololikashvili, the UNWTO Secretary-General, led a high-level delegation to the city of Hangzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, to join in the official re-opening.
“The re-opening of borders therefore represents the moment the world has been waiting for,” he noted.
Pololikashvili is the first UN Head of Agency to visit China since restrictions were lifted.
China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Hu Heping, welcomed UNWTO’s support throughout the pandemic and for joining the official re-opening celebrations.
In a bilateral meeting, Heping and Pololikashvili agreed to further deepen their collaboration around positioning tourism on the agenda for international development cooperation and in the key areas of tourism education and tourism for rural development.
According to UNWTO data, China grew to be the biggest tourism source market in the world prior to the pandemic.
In 2019, Chinese tourists spent a collective $255 billion on international travel. Domestic tourism served as a pillar of growth and employment, with more than 6 billion trips that year alone, supporting jobs and businesses across the Asian country.
The high-level UNWTO delegation was welcomed to Yucun, one of four Chinese destinations to be recognized among the “Best Tourism Villages” by UNWTO.
The village was awarded the recognition for its commitment to making tourism a source of local opportunity, in addition to its commitment to eco-friendly tourism and pioneering approach to waste management at the destination-level.
UNWTO was welcomed as a partner of the Xianghu Dialogue, organized by the World Tourism Alliance (WTA) in Hangzhou.
Held around the theme of “A New Paradigm for a New Tourism”, the event brought together public and private sector leaders to re-think the sector’s future around the key priorities of sustainability, equality and resilience.
In the past year, China has established itself as a leading supporter of UNWTO in several core priority areas. These include Nature Positive Tourism, which UNWTO placed on the agenda of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), for which China served as President.
UNWTO will return to China in September for the tenth Global Tourism Economic Forum (GTEF), to be held in Macau.
– CAJ News