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2020 “International Mountain Tourism Day” Online Forum Draws Attention

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2020 “International Mountain Tourism Day” Online Forum Draws Attention

June 02
15:10 2020

The “International Mountain Tourism Day” (IMTD), initiated by the IMTA, aims to arouse public awareness about protecting mountain resources and preserving mountain civilization and public responsibility for promoting mountain economy to the benefit of people living in mountainous regions; and to initiate a positive, healthy and uplifting lifestyle, to construct an excellent mountain tourism environments, and promote the sustainable development of mountain tourism.

May 29, 2020 is the second IMTD. In the special context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMTA and Trip.com Group jointly organized the online forum with the theme of “Pandemic Crisis and Challenges & Opportunities for Mountain Tourism”. This forum is the first online forum on international tourism ever held this year, which is aimed to pool the wisdom of global mountain tourism circles, discuss the impact of the pandemic crisis on mountain tourism and the entire tourism industry, and explore the trend and opportunity of post-pandemic recovery. The forum had two sections, namely, the “Expert Outlook and Academic Perspective” and the “Industry Views and Brainstorm”, consisting of keynote speeches and online panel. The event was supported by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), European Tourism Association (ETOA), World Tourism Alliance (WTA), World Tourism Cities Federation(WTCF), China Tourism Academy and other organizations.

A great number of experts and entrepreneurs participated in this online forum, including Chairman Dominique De Villepin, Vice Chairman Shao Qiwei and Secretary General He Yafei of IMTA, Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of WTTC, Dai Bin, President of China Tourism Academy, Wei Xiao’an, a prestigious tourism expert, James Liang, Co-founder and Chairman of Trip.com Group, and Li Xiaoping, Senior Vice President of Trip.com Group, etc… The speakers make keynote speeches on how to cope with the impact of COVID-19 and how to turn the crisis into opportunities to restore the vitality of the industry by centering on such factors as policies, environment, resources, technology, industry, market and so on.

Many distinguished people made online discussion with respect to the two topics of “Tackle the Challenging Task, Seize Opportunities and Move Forward Hand in Hand” and “Post-Pandemic Revitalization and High Quality Development of Mountain Tourism Destinations”, exploring for ideas, methods and paths for mountain tourism products to better cater to new consumption needs. They were Mario Hardy, CEO of PATA; Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA; Michel Bouvard, Vice President of the Departmental Council of Savoie, France; Eugenio Yunis, Former Director of Sustainable Development of Tourism, World Tourism Organization; Song Yu, Chairman of Beijing Tourism Group; Yuan Wei, Deputy Director of Guizhou Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism; Kimi Liu, CEO of TripAdvisor China; Zhou Li, Head the China Project from the CLR of Tier University of Applied Sciences,Germany; Zhang Haifeng, CEO of Huway.com. and other government representatives、scholars、entrepreneurs.

Grasp new opportunities, adapt to new models and new trends

Year 2020 is an unusual year. The COVID-19 outbreak has brought unprecedented challenges to the global economy. As a labor-intensive modern service industry, tourism is highly dependent on the migration of people, modern transportation and related industries. It is one of the industries that are most vulnerable to various types of crises, including public health crises. However, opportunities and challenges coexist, and how to find a new way out of the crisis is crucial to the revitalization of the entire tourism industry.

Dominique De Villepin, Chairman of the IMTA and former French Prime Minister, has been committed to actively promoting dialogue and cooperation between China and other regions in the field of tourism, and put forward great ideas from the perspective of “Impacts of and Responses to COVID-19 on Global Mountain Tourism”. He pointed out that COVID-19 has completely changed people’s understanding of the tourism industry. In the process of exploring a tourism development model that adapts to new trends, several concepts are crucial. First of all, we should realize the importance of nation-states, and each country must make full and reasonable use of its own resources; second, under an increasingly complex competitive environment, tourism should be developed in a pragmatic way; third, globalization should be advanced through R & D and innovation to realize resource sharing and innovative development; fourth, we must actively promote regional cooperation, information sharing and experience sharing. At present, the global tourism industry is amid rapid transformation. It should seize new opportunities, adapt to new models and follow new trends, so as to secure the diversity and high-quality development of mountain tourism in a well-planned manner.

Shao Qiwei, Vice Chairman of IMTA, has served as the chairman of the China National Tourism Administration for many years and has extensive experience in tourism management. In the forum, he shared some thoughts on the recovery of global mountain tourism after the pandemic. He believed that people’s outlook on safety, health and tourism could be remodeled after the pandemic, which means there should be higher requirements for tourism. COVID-19 has disclosed some problems occurring in tourism development, alerting tourism-related agencies that they should use a more scientific concept to plan and manage tourism, so as to facilitate the recovery of post-pandemic global tourism, including mountain tourism. On behalf of IMTA, he called on governments to formulate tourism rejuvenation schemes in a timely manner and provide preferential loans, tax breaks, airfare discounts, consumption reductions and exemptions and other preferential measures to alleviate the difficulties confronting mountain tourism, so as to drive the post-COVID-19 economies and make tourism keeping play a part in international poverty reduction.

Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of WTTC, is one of the first heads of international organizations to speak out for the tourism industry in the fight against the COVID-19, who analyzed the impact of tourism on the global economy in terms of GDP growth, employment and tourism spending, and summarized 90 different types of crises that have hit the tourism industry in the last two decades. She pointed out that the impact of the COVID-19 may cause the global travel and tourism industry to lose about 100 million jobs, resulting in a GDP contraction of about 30%. Therefore, she believed that the tourism industry should coordinate to ensure that effective global measures are in place, and that the use of emerging technologies and the development of protective measures could enhance the visitor’s experience of “seamless travel”. At the same time, increased cooperation between public-private sector and the development of standards with public health experts to rebuild tourist confidence are essential, as is continued assistance to the travel and tourism industry.

“The post-pandemic world will go through a rebirth. It will be a brand new world. Globalization will be redefined and so will mountain tourism”, said He Yafei, Secretary General of IMTA and former Vice-Minister of Foreign Ministry of China. His speech was themed with “How Can Mountain Tourism Help Recover Economy after the COVID-19 Pandemic”. He noted that we are standing at a new starting point, facing new circumstances and new demands. As the only international non-governmental organization in the field of mountain tourism, the IMTA is willing to cooperate actively with other international and domestic organizations and mountain tourism practitioners to expand their ways of thinking, promote the innovative concept of “mountain tourism +”, and develop new projects and experiences of mountain tourism with positive image, diversity, localization, flexibility and closeness to life and nature.

Mario Hardy, who has been focusing on driving sustainable growth and promoting value and quality in travel and tourism to and from Asia Pacific for many years, presented his views on behalf of PATA as its CEO. He argued that, in these difficult times, practitioners from all countries should work together to create a more resilient, sustainable and responsible tourism industry.

Remolding the industry with technology innovations after the pandemic

The continuous development of modern technology has had a huge impact on the tourism industry, which cannot sustain without the innovation of modern science and technology. After the pandemic, there will be a greater need to further integrate scientific and technological innovation with tourism. The current tourism model is becoming unable to meet the needs in a modern society. Technical innovation will bring a different future for tourism.

Shao Qiwei, emphasized in his speech the importance of modern technology in the restoration and development of mountain tourism. Using technology to empower culture and tourism is the inevitable way out of the current difficulty and revitalize the tourism sector. To do so, we should actively promote the full integration of modern science and technology into all aspects of tourism, which are represented by “Internet +”, “AI +”, and 5G applications. Thus, doing more with less would be possible.

Li Xiaoping, SVP of Trip.com Group, shared Trip.com Group’s thoughts on tourism development. He noted that the pandemic would boost the market demand for some tourism products. Based on the situation during the pandemic and the gradual recovery, eco-tourism, recreational tourism, outdoor sports tourism, rural tourism and smart tourism will deserve more attention.

Zhang Haifeng, CEO of Huway.com, also gave a few suggestions on the development of mountain destinations in the future from a technical perspective. He believed that mountain tourism destinations should do a good job in upgrading technology, improving the tourism environment and creating a comprehensive business model. At the same time, mountain tourism destinations should be supported by online influencers and effective marketing means to add multi-channel attraction.

Supply-side reforms matters after the COVID-19

The COVID-19 has changed people’s lifestyles, and this results in higher requirements for the quality of mountain tourism products and services, convenience, safety and comfort of traveling. Demands for higher quality traveling will be greater. Quality and high-end spending will become the highlights of post-pandemic tourism consumption. Therefore, the construction of high-quality tourism products and services systems, and the development of quality tourism will be a mandatory course for future mountain tourism practitioners.

He Yafei pointed out that in the post-pandemic era, the expectations of tourists for mountain tourism have gradually increased, and we should actively carry out the supply-side reform of mountain tourism projects, provide more new types of tourism projects, adjust various industries attached to mountain tourism with a new perspective, and propose a variety of customized mountain tourism projects with different contents and methods according to the needs of different groups of people and characteristics of tourists.

The recovery of tourism in China, the largest tourism market, has garnered global attention. Dai Bin, President of China Tourism Academy and an authority research specialized in China’s tourism business management and economy of tourism economy, conducted an in-depth study on “Post-Pandemic Consumption Trend of Mountain Tourism in China”. According to Dai, China’s tourism is now making steady recovery. Statistics show that the number of tourists during the May Day Holiday reached 53.5% of year-on-year level and that their travel radius was 50% longer than during the Spring Festival, which means that tourists were not only out and about but also more active in tourist destinations. Profound shifts are also afoot in tourism consumption, with tourists now attaching more importance to such factors as safety, health, environmental protection and tourist behavior, the integrated development of science and technology, culture and tourist behavior. More emphasis should be laid on the integrated development of science and technology, culture and tourism as we enter a new stage of work resumption with pandemic control measures in place. The development pattern of tourism is now evolving to a new phase where culture leads and science underpins innovative tourism development that benefits both tourists and local residents. Besides, Dai also expresseed his expectations for mountain tourism market: “People working in tourism-related areas must keep their confidence in tourism development. More opportunities are likely to await mountain tourism, and both people and businesses in the tourism sector should demonstrate more resolve and invest more resources in market and product research and development.”

Michel Bouvard, Vice President of the Departmental Council of Savoie, France, said in an online discussion:“Mountain tourism, especially in intermediate altitude, need to step up efforts to achieve post-pandemic development, and mountainous regions endowed with natural resources and their own stories must leverage their advantages. Going forward, one requirement must be met in mountain tourism, and that is quality.”

Song Yu, Chairman of the Beijing Tourism Group, also gave his views regarding high-quality tourism development after the pandemic. He said that tourism in China is in a consumption transition, where domestic tourism is becoming the new dominant form of tourism consumption and tourism in natural scenery will be a new growth driver. Development of mountain tourism, too, will see fresh changes, with product design and consumption guide catering more to tourist demands.

Yuan Wei, Deputy Director General of Guizhou Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, gave an introduction of a series of measures to boost post-pandemic work and production resumption in culture and tourism sectors in Guizhou, which is a province renowned for its mountain tourism. He touched upon the abundant mountain tourism resources Guizhou enjoys, including Mount Fanjing, Chishuidanxia, rock climbing in Getu River, base jumping in Baling River and other mature mountain tourism brands. Mountain tourism enjoys better prospects after the pandemic, which presents fresh opportunities to Guizhou. Guizhou will make proper use of its mountain tourism resources and launch more mountain tourism brands to meet various market demands.

Ecology first for sustainable development

The theory of sustainable development is the most scientific and widely accepted development theory in the world today, and the study of sustainable development of tourism is of great significance for social-economic recovery after the pandemic. Sustainable development is not just a responsibility, it should be also seen as an opportunity for us to develop a more beautiful tomorrow.

Mr. Wei Xiao’an, a prestigious tourism expert, gave his views on “Normalization of Pandemic Prevention and Mountain Tourism”. He believes that under the normalization of pandemic prevention, mountain tourism has been pushed to the forefront by the market with its unlimited potentials for expansion, naturally isolable pandemic prevention conditions, and people’s pursuit of a natural and healthy way of life. “It’s not a matter of whether we want to do it or not, but a matter of what we have to do and how we do it,” stressed by Wei Xiaoan. He believes that to develop mountain tourism we should always adhere to the tenet of “protecting mountain resources, inheriting mountain civilization and promoting mountain economy for the benefit of the general public”, deal with the relationship between mountains, trees, water, ditches, roads, deities, and people, take a comprehensive view of the promotion of composite mountain areas, adapt to local conditions, promote strengths and avoid shortcomings, and promote the sustainable development of post-pandemic mountain tourism. He noted that mountain tourism should go international and Guizhou is the early bird in making rural tourism international. “Four Nordic countries have built four ecotourism museums in Guizhou. You may go there for a visit to see what is meant by ecotourism museums “.

“It will be very difficult for the tourism industry to return to normalcy before the pandemic, and mountain tourism is likely to become a top destination for tourists after the pandemic.” In view of this, Eugenio Yunis, Former Director of Sustainable Development of Tourism, World Tourism Organization, offered his own suggestions: Quality services and infrastructure are essential for the future development of the tourism industry; in the post-pandemic era priority must be given to the health and safety of tourists and local residents; and it is necessary to develop new sustainable tourism destinations to meet the needs of new tourists and benefit the local population.

James Liang, Co-founder and chairman of Trip.com Group, believes that tourism development and environmental protection should be well-coordinated. As a leader in the domestic tourism industry, Trip.com Group offers distinctive quality services that lead domestic travel enthusiasts and international tourists to iconic destinations across China. Development and protection, the environment, culture and socio-economic development should be well balanced.

Zhou Li, Scholar of Trier University of Applied Sciences shared her views on the sustainable development of mountain tourism. She pointed out that sustainable development is the mutual development of the economy, ecology and society, and is a very ambitious goal that requires the joint efforts of governments, enterprises and individuals to achieve. After the pandemic, on the one hand, we should be vigilant against the negative impact of the “retaliatory backlash” on sustainable development; on the other hand, tourism projects should fully integrate the concept of sustainability from the planning, site selection and operation stages, respect natural conditions, comply with the red line of ecology, establish a resource management system, change the concept from focusing on the number of tourist arrivals to the quality of tourists, and further develop ecotourism on the basis of sustainable tourism.

A promising future for mountain tourism market after the pandemic

The Report on World Mountain Tourism Development Tendency (2019), released by Mr. Francesco Frangialli, Honorary Secretary General of World Tourism Organization, shows a consecutive growth in consumption of China’ mountain tourism products in 2018 and 2019, with the year-on-year growth rate of 34.93%. The total number of global mountain tourist arrivals (overnight visitors, including domestic and international ones) reached 1.22 billion, generating total revenues of USD 1.36 trillion. It is fair to say that mountain tourism has exceeded the overall tourism industry in terms of growth rate. Following the pandemic, the sector in April 2020 attracted as much attention as half of the same period last year, indicating a sound momentum of the emerging sector.

Dominique De Villepin recognized the bright prospect of mountain tourism since its diversity could cater to various needs of visitors with a wider range of choices while ensuring their safety. He also suggested the industry to be developed in an organized, planned way so as to better leverage the mountain tourism resources.

In the speech, Tom Jenkins said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to stay at home. Their pent-up zeal for travelling means a new opportunity for destinations of mountain tourism.” According to the massive user review data of the TripAdvisor platform, Kimi Liu analyzed and concluded that mountain tourism would see an early bounce-up among the whole tourism industry and would be most sought after by tourists after the pandemic is eased.

In general, the mountain tourism market after the pandemic will further gain momentum, emerging as an important driver of recovery of the global tourism industry, and mountain tourism will become an important engine for the global tourism industry.

A number of people sent their blessing to us today via video message in which they expressed their wishes and expectations. They are Dr. Dhananjay Regmi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Gede Wiwin Suyasa, Chairman of Batur UNESCO Global Geopark Tourism Development Board,; Mark Tate, CEO of Cairngorms National Park, Scotland; Qu Huan, President of the Korea-China Association for Cultural Exchange, In Suk Han, President of Korea Student Alpine Federation (KSAF), Emma Chen, Global Vice President of the Internationale Organisation Für VOLKSKUNST(IOV), Zeng Xiangyou, Director of Development Committee of Cultural and Tourism of Nanchuan District, Chongqing, and Yang Yi, Deputy Director of the Culture, Tourism, Radio, Film and Television Sports Bureau of Hengyang City, Hunan, Wei Chao, Vice President and Deputy Director of Investment Cente of Huangshan Tourism Development Co., Ltd., Geng Deyong, Director of Changbai Mountain Management Committee Tourism and Culture and Sports , etc. The initiative of Mountain Tourism for a Healthy Life was released at the end of the forum to call upon people to go into mountains, embrace nature, experience the beauty and seek for a healthy way of life through an initiative on mountain tourism and health.

The event was live broadcast both at home and abroad via Twitter (Trip Advisor China), WeChat Mini Program (Ctrip), Tencent New, and Netease News. Joined by over 1 million people, including leading representatives, experts, scholars, and entrepreneurs from well-known international organizations and tourism industry-related organizations, the event is of great significance to signal the recovery of the mountain tourism market and to seek a new way out for the market after the pandemic. More importantly, it is of far-reaching importance to the revitalization of the tourism industry, conservation of mountain tourism resources and international exchanges and cooperation between tourism sectors following the pandemic.

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