Maritime Silk Road a central theme at this year's GTE Forum in Macau

More than 40 ministerial leaders, globally renowned corporate leaders, experts and scholars assembled in Macau last week for the third annual Global Tourism Economy Forum (GTEF), an event hosted by the Secretariat for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao SAR Government with support from CNTA, WTTC, PATA and MGTO. 

At the Forum, top officials from the region’s tourism industry discussed how to continue driving cross-border collaboration in tourism, culture, professional and information technology aspects. 

Numbers wise, trade between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region increased more than 10 percent last year, to $444 billion. 

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Building upon an initiative announced by Chinese President, Xi Jinping, earlier this year to boost regional trade and economic cooperation, the central theme of the forum this year was the Maritime Silk Road. 

One of the many highlights this year was the release of the first Joint Annual report on Asia Tourism Trend, conducted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre (GTERC).

According to the report, the Asia Pacific region had a robust increase in inbound tourism, receiving some 248 million international arrivals in 2013, about 23 percent of the world’s total. According to UNWTO’s long-term forecasts, this share is expected to reach 30 percent by 2030, a percentage equivalent to 535 million international tourists.

One of the event’s most anticipated panels, “Face to Face, Ministers and Private Sector CEOs,” included discussions between tourism & economic development ministers and private-sector CEOs. While each minister was given a platform to promote its destinations and visa reform policies, the key points made by the private sector were less destination and more economically driven. 

“One of the dangers of the tourism industry,” according to Anita Mendirata, who hosted the panel, “is that it has the tendency to lose credibility [with investors], because it doesn’t talk numbers. As much as the interest is there, the language of business tends to get suffocated by the emotion of tourism.” 

This sentiment was echoed by Arthur de Haast, Chairman, Hotels and Hospitality Group, JLL, who’s closing remarks to the ministers included a plea to simply, “Trust us.”

With anticipated cross-border ministerial cooperation and increased collaboration between the public and private sectors, the region’s tourism industry is hoping the Maritime Silk Road initiatives will pave the way for resurgence in regional economic activity.

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