Tourism is not just a source of revenue, say experts at the APEC Tourism Working Group. The two day meeting, which began today, assembles representatives from across the Asia-Pacific region. While the economic benefits of tourism have long been acknowledged, the industry is fast emerging as a platform for more complex challenges - environmental ethics, corporate social responsibility and social inclusion.
Explains the group chair, Helen Cox of the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism:
"Tourism is a significant contributor to the GDP of many APEC member economies, but it has the potential to improve the lives of people in other dimensions. It is important that industry is not only profitable but also sustainable. Proper economic planning means looking ahead, anticipating the outcome of trends and finding ways to maximize gain, and to contribute in a positive way to the quality of life in local communities."
Tourism is a key economic driver for the APEC region. Even the cumulative effects of SARS and the tsunami of 2004 did not curtail the upward flow of tourists to the region. In 2006, Asia-Pacific claimed 20 percent of international tourist receipts (an equivalent of US$ 153 billion).
"Traditionally, tourism has been a tool for economic development," says Dr. Ian Kean, Executive Director of the APEC International Center for Sustainable Development. "But it's insufficient. It can upset lifestyles and the environment. It's no longer acceptable."
Conversely, tourism can be used as a vehicle to improve a situation. For example, Kean offers, tourism can bring about community pride, stimulate planning and the establishment of facilities, and lead to greater appreciation on the part of both tourists and local communities.
In preparation for the meeting of Ministers (9 - 11 April), the working group will address: social inclusion and indigenous tourism; corporate social responsibility; environmental responsibility; cultural tourism; and aviation connectivity.