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Full text of Premier Li Keqiang’s remarks at First World Conference on Tourism for Development

Updated: May 21,2016 9:29 AM     Xinhua

BEIJING — Following is an English version of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s remarks at the First World Conference on Tourism for Development on May 19.

Tourism, a Ship of World Peace and Development

Address by H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

At the Opening Ceremony of the First World Conference on Tourism for Development

19 May 2016

Your Excellency President Filipe Nyusi, Your Excellency Secretary General Taleb Rifai, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

Today marks China’s Tourism Day and the opening of the first World Conference on Tourism for Development. As we say in China, good things come in pairs. On behalf of the Chinese government, let me offer warm congratulations on the opening of the conference. I also express sincere welcome to all guests coming from afar, and pay high tribute to those who have long been committed to the development of tourism in the world.

Travel and tourism makes part of the human pursuit for better life; it opens a way to the new and the unknown world. Traveling has been a long-held tradition in the Chinese culture. The Chinese have always believed that he who excels reads as many as ten thousand books and travels as far as ten thousand miles. In fact, many masterpieces of writing have been produced as a result of such travels. Xu Xiake, a famous Chinese scholar who lived back in the late 16th to 17th century, traveled far across the country, reaching places that had never been reached before. His book, Xu Xiake’s Travel Notes, tells about his 30 years of travel experience over four hundred years ago. The book is a geographic classic that gives a comprehensive account of the natural environment, and is also a huge travel guide to the natural landscape in China. Its influence, far and wide as it is, is still being felt today. The nineteenth of May, the date that Xu Xiake’s travel diary began with, has now become China’s Tourism Day. Yet in the old days, not many people traveled that much due to economic and social constraints. Those who lived in remote areas might even have never stepped out of their hometown. That changed with the introduction of the policy of reform and opening-up. As the economy grew faster and people’s income got higher, more and more people could afford to travel. This is even more so when transportation in China is being made increasingly easier. After 2000, with increases in household consumption, travel is no longer a luxury for the few but rather a consumption of necessity for the average Chinese. Last year, Chinese tourists made more than 4 billion domestic visits, and expenses on travel accounted for 10 percent of total household spending. Over 120 million outbound visits were made by Chinese tourists and China received 130 million inbound tourists from abroad. A total of over 4 trillion RMB yuan in revenue was generated. Forecasts show that by 2020, the number of per capita travel times by Chinese tourists and the amount of tourism revenue will both double on the current basis.

China is a huge country. It has a long history, a splendid culture and enchanting natural scenery. The Chinese population is multi-ethnic, each with its own uniqueness. All this could be translated into advantage and potential for tourism development. The Chinese government places high importance on tourism. In recently years, we have promulgated the Tourism Law, adopted a national program on travel and leisure and rolled out a host of policy measures for the reform and development of tourism. It is our plan to make tourism a strategic pillar for the economy and a modern service sector to meet people’s growing travel needs.

— Tourism is a new driver of growth in China. Despite a significant growth, tourism in China, in general, falls short of people’s demand. There lacks premium and creative tourist programs and services. In the past five years, investment in tourism has grown by 40 percent annually to exceed one trillion yuan last year. Modern day tourism integrates the primary, secondary and tertiary industries. It is a new economy that increases the consumption and added value of agricultural products. It also drives the development of needed industrial goods. It is associated with more than 110 industries, and contributes to more than 80 percent of businesses like catering, accommodation, civil aviation and railway passenger transportation. Booming tourism drives up other businesses. In 2015, direct contribution and aggregate contribution of tourism to China’s GDP was 4.9 percent and 10.8 percent respectively. That said, tourism is not contributing as much to the economy in China as it does in many other countries. We have drawn plans to make tourism a major part of structural reform, supply-side structural reform in particular, to spur growth. We will implement tourism promotion and investment promotion plans, increase market access for private capital and deepen external cooperation to provide more impetus for tourism to grow. We will improve the infrastructure for transportation facilities, scenic spots, self-drive tour camps, and digital installations. We will strengthen market regulation and oversight to offer richer, more convenient and safer travel experience to both Chinese and foreign tourists. Besides, we will encourage holistic tourism destinations development and the “tourism plus” program, and vigorously develop rural tourism, industrial tourism, culture tourism, and seniors and health tourism. Those programs, combined with the “Internet plus” initiative, are designed to promote the integrated development of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries through tourism growth. To upgrade tourism will be a good way to improve the economy, both in efficiency and in quality.

— Tourism is a major platform for mass entrepreneurship and innovation. Innovation is the primary source of development. To make the tourism sector stronger, we need to encourage innovation and shift the growth model, which all serve to raise the quality and level of development. China’s rich tourism resources, combined with the long industrial chain it entails, offer good opportunities for job creation and business start-up. It naturally attracts people from different fields to join in active innovation programs. In 2015, China’s tourism industry directly employed 28 million people, and the total number of jobs created, directly or indirectly, was 80 million. That was roughly 10 percent of the number of all jobs in the country. We will improve policy incentives, build public service platforms, strengthen vocational education and training and provide a better environment for more people to take part in the development of tourist goods and services.

— Tourism is a main avenue for poverty alleviation and eradication. Rural poverty alleviation is probably the biggest task for China if it is to become a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Most poor people in China live in former revolutionary bases, ethnic group-inhabited areas, border areas and poverty-stricken areas, where constraints hold back industrial and agricultural development. These places, however, tend to enjoy unique strengths for developing tourism, and many of them have in fact got rid of poverty as a result of tourism development. Tourism opens a door to the outside world. It broadens people’s horizon, improves their mindset, lifts their spirit and contributes to social progress. The government’s target is to lift 12 million people out of poverty in the next five years through developing tourism.

— Tourism is a facilitator to building a beautiful China. Tourism is a typically green industry, one that consumes less energy, produces less pollution and makes circular development possible. The Chinese used to take the mountains and rivers they lived by as nothing but a source of food and income. Development activities such as excessive logging and fishing abused the environment and caused ecological degradation. Such a development model is hardly sustainable. In recent years, as tourism becomes a booming industry, people have begun to see green mountains as gold, treasure mountains, and are doing more to protect the environment, because they know that keeping the mountains green means keeping their source of income. This has made development more sustainable. We need to put tourism high on the agenda of ecological conservation. We will champion the vision of green development for the country and the people. As we push forward economic development, we will better protect the environment by putting in place the most stringent environmental protection regime. We will establish the national park system, coordinate the development with the protection of tourist sites, and balance financial returns with ecological benefits of development. We will, by doing so, open up a more coordinated approach of economic development and ecological conservation.

— Tourism is a bridge of friendship linking China with the world. Amity among the people holds the key to state-to-state relations and mutual visits are essential to foster amity among the people. Tourism is the most direct and natural way of people-to-people exchange. It is a window of openness, a bond of friendship and a messenger of peace. The Chinese government highly values the role of tourism in facilitating cultural exchange. We have identified over 150 countries as approved destinations for Chinese tourists, and have held “Year of Tourism” activities with countries like Russia, the Republic of Korea, India and the United States. We stand ready to work with more countries to enhance tourism cooperation. Joint tourist activities of diverse forms may be organized for people to take part in, which will sow the seed of friendship among them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world today is not a tranquil place. In some parts of the world, conflicts and hotspot issues keep cropping up and the threat of terrorism simply gets more imminent. Peace and development are the shared aspiration of people of all countries. An environment of peace and development is needed for the development of tourism, which, in turn, will contribute to peace and development in the world. This conference, convened under the theme of “Tourism for Peace and Development”, cannot be more relevant. The presence of nearly 1,000 guests from over 100 countries and international organizations shows the global recognition of the value of tourism, as well as the universal desire for a world of peace and development. China wishes to work with other countries in the spirit of openness, innovation, mutual benefit and win-win for all and jointly encourage inclusive and sustainable development of tourism worldwide. We hope that a new type of international relations of win-win cooperation will be fostered for the benefit of people of all countries. For that to happen, I wish to propose the following:

First, we need to conduct international tourism cooperation programs to lend impetus to world economic recovery. The lackluster global growth cries out for new growth drivers. Tourism, which is among the fastest growing and highly resilient of all sectors, plays a vital role in stimulating global economic recovery. According to the World Bank, one dollar of consumption in tourism can generate 3.2 dollars of growth globally. Tourism now contributes to about 10 percent of global GDP and some 30 percent of services exports worldwide. It surely stands out as the largest sector in the economic mix. In the next 15 years, the number of international visits worldwide will increase from 1.2 billion to 1.8 billion. For four years in a row, China has topped the global list of outbound travels. Last year, Chinese tourists spent more than $200 billion on overseas trips. To facilitate the development of tourism globally, the Chinese government proposes that international tourism cooperation programs be carried out to foster a more convenient travel environment. Countries are advised to make visa policies easier, streamline entry procedures, open more direct flights, provide more professional and people-oriented services for sightseeing and shopping, and act to protect the rights and interests of consumers.

Second, we need to increase North-South and South-South tourism dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation, as this facilitates implementation of the sustainable development agenda. The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development adopted at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development last year has spelled out three major tasks for the next 15 years, namely eradicating extreme poverty, reducing inequality and injustice and combating climate change. Tourism is included in three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN General Assembly has set the year 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Developed countries need to increase official development assistance and aid for trade to least developed countries to help them build greater capacity of tourism development. Developing countries need to incorporate poverty reduction goals into their tourism policies. They need to create more jobs for their young and for women, aboriginals and disadvantaged groups through tourism development, and make sure that poor and far-flung areas get a fair share of the opportunities and benefits of tourism development. In the coming five years, China will conduct 50 international tourism cooperation programs with foreign countries, including programs on tourism resources development and protection, expert consultancy in tourism planning, training of Chinese-speaking tour guides and management personnel, and will offer 1,500 training opportunities in China for foreign countries.

Third, we need to make tourism a bond of peace, something that contributes to friendly exchanges and harmonious relations among the people and to open and inclusive development. Tourism helps deepen understanding, reduce prejudice and enhance inclusiveness. It thus has a special role to play in ensuring world peace. Countries need to step up tourism cooperation in various forms and at multiple levels, and need to deepen respect, accommodation and understanding of the different ethnic groups and cultures in the world, so as to strengthen the foundation for friendship. Countries and regions estranged in relations need to ease restrictions on personnel flows to allow cultural exchanges to break the ice in bilateral exchanges. Tourism was one of the first in China to be opened to the outside. For all countries, there is the shared responsibility to take effective measures to tackle emergencies, protect safety of tourists and oppose terrorist acts against tourists. Let us act to foster a freer, safer and more convenient and more comfortable travel environment for all people in the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the years, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has played a positive role in expanding tourism exchange and cooperation and upholding peace and sustainable development. The Chinese government highly appreciates the UNWTO’s role and has had fruitful cooperation with the UNWTO. China will continue to support and take an active part in the UNWTO’s work, and will increase exchange and cooperation with other countries in tourism. Together, we can make sure that tourism, the ship of peace and development, will sail far and take us to a better future.

Thank you.