AS weekends go, the past few days will go down as some of the most significant for me personally in all my time at AFTA. I am very fortunate to be the current co vice-chairman of the World Tourism Alliance (WTA) and this new global travel and tourism organisation held its annual meeting and dialogue in Hangzhou China.
The WTA has some 165 members from over 30 counties and includes travel and tourism enterprises, industry groups and associations, non-government bodies and other stakeholders including the World Bank, who want to join forces to create what I have referred to as an “ideas” market place.
After only one year in operation, the WTA announced over the weekend that its new global headquarters would be in Hangzhou. Some five cities in China bid for this privilege and Hangzhou was successful. As part of the visit the delegates were able to see the island in the lakes district of the city that has been set aside for the construction of this new global headquarters.
China is serious about being a significant part of the global travel and tourism industry and this new organisation, while born and based in China, is looking out globally. The theme for this year’s meeting was “Poverty Alleviation
through Tourism”. It is a serious challenge and clearly tourism can bring jobs, economic growth, infrastructure
and a lift in living standards. And, importantly, this is not just something that the WTA is looking to do in China. It is global and there were many case studies that are working towards this goal in other parts of the world.
The other topic is the one known as “over-tourism”. It is a term that I don’t particularly like, as in my view “over-tourism” is in fact, success, poorly managed.The dialogue that took place allowed the many present from all parts of the travel and tourism value chain to talk about these topics, share ideas and come together as a global industry to
see how together we can make a difference.
For Australia to be interacting with this global organisation is extremely important mainly for the reason that we enjoy, as a population, a very good living standard. Many present at the meeting wanted to talk about Australia, how we approach the balance between our inbound and outbound industry and just how important the travel and tourism
industry in Australia is to the global industry.
Currently about 550,000 Australians are heading to China each year and some 1.3 million Chinese are heading to Australia. In the overall scheme of things, these numbers are so small. Hangzhou as a city of 9.6m population receives around 30 million tourists each year. China is open and ready for tourism and from my experience this
weekend, they have really got something going and we need to make sure we are a part of the conversation.