Tourism officials from the 21 APEC member economies are preparing their industry infrastructure to host an expected doubling of international tourists in the region to 800 million people within the next decade. The potential payoff for job creation and growth is substantial, a new report meanwhile details.
Measures to help small businesses and workforces accommodate this surge in visitors were taken forward by officials and industry representatives over the last week in the budding ecotourism destination of Kokopo. Focus is on maximizing the services capacity of the region’s small firms, which account for 97 per cent of all businesses and half of labor across APEC economies.
“The Asia-Pacific is currently the most significant contributor to the advancement in tourist numbers globally,” noted Papua New Guinea Tourism Minister Tobias Kulang, in opening remarks. “The region’s position is reflective of its above average market growth which registered a nine per cent rate within the first four months of 2016.”
“Papua New Guinea is working with its APEC partners to boost tourism as an engine for economic growth and prosperity,” Minister Kulang continued. “We are fully committed to the success of regional efforts to ensure a sustainable, inclusive travel and tourism sector, and promote labor, skills development and certifications to build compatible workforces.”
International tourist arrivals in APEC economies have jumped 168 per cent to over 426 million during the last twenty years. The region stands a good chance to hit its target of 800 million by 2025 if actions conducive to growth are taken, according to a new industry report from the APEC Policy Support Unit.
Achieving APEC’s tourist arrivals goal, aided by collaboration to improve air connectivity and entry processes, would add USD 3.8 trillion dollars in GDP, create 21.1 million jobs and lift 15.2 million people out of poverty across the region, the report adds. But it will also strain the industry’s ability to cater to new visitors, particularly travel, tourism and hospitality operators with scarcer resources.
“APEC is deepening engagement with the travel and tourism sector to better understand the new challenges facing operators big and small, and establish conditions that enable them to harness growth opportunities,” said Jennifer Aguinaga, Chair of the APEC Tourism Working Group, which administers regional initiatives in support of travel and tourism development.
“We are focused on meeting infrastructure and human resource needs as tourism demand rises and changes in technology and business models transform the industry,” added Aguinaga, who is also with the National Travel and Tourism Office at the United States’ Department of Commerce.
To this end, APEC is working with the private sector to lift structural barriers to industry innovation, including the development of new products and niche markets. Easing bottlenecks to entrepreneurship and tourism operators owned by women, who account for 60 per cent of the industry workforce, is a parallel emphasis. Financing and digital divides are among them.
APEC economies are further boosting occupational standards and certification programs, wider access to training and career development vital to encouraging young people to pursue long-term employment in tourism. They are also driving best practice adoption for mutual recognition in recruitment, retention and workforce planning among employers.
“Small businesses are more likely to hire locally, generate jobs that are less skill-intensive and provide more flexible work arrangements,” said Emmanuel San Andres, an analyst with the APEC Policy Support Unit and co-author of the report. “Greater public-private support for the sector’s modernization will be critical to realizing its full growth potential as more tourists arrive.”
“APEC economies are well placed to exchange critical ground-level data needed to assess the impact of tourism development on businesses, households and individuals,” San Andres concluded. “Ultimately evidence-based policies will do a lot more to build an inclusive and rewarding tourism sector in the region.”
Click here to view the APEC Tourism Arrivals and Inclusive Growth Report
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