Mr Rafael Hui, Acting Financial Secretary for HK SAR Ministers
Ladies and Gentlemen
First of all, on behalf of the APEC Secretariat, I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for hosting the APEC Tourism Forum. This Forum is held in conjunction with the 18th APEC Tourism WG Meeting and the 49th Annual Meeting of Pacific Asia Travel Association. It provides a unique opportunity for both public and private sectors to work jointly in developing strategies to promote tourism in our region.
Tourism plays a crucial role in economic and social development within the APEC region. It is:
A major employer of both women and men at all economic levels;A significant earner of foreign exchange;
An important generator of business opportunity for small and medium sized enterprises; and
An effective vehicle for promoting mutual understanding of different cultures, heritage and traditions, building up the environment awareness and fostering friendship among our people
Recent statistics provided by the World Travel and Tourism Council and the World Tourism Organization have given us an encouraging forecast on the great potential of tourism in the Asia Pacific Region.
If this potential is to be realized for the benefit of our people, it is essential that impediments to tourism business and investment are removed, mobility of visitors is increased and competitiveness is enhanced. The Tourism Charter being developed by APEC, in close consultation with industry, will provide a blueprint for cooperative action to that end.
Ladies and gentlemen, "Interacting effectively with business" is one of the objectives for APEC this year. We are pleased that representatives from regional and international tourism organizations are able to join us today. The participation of the World Tourism Organization, the Pacific Asia Travel Association and the World Travel and Tourism Council as "guest" in the Tourism Working Group has benefited APEC's work considerably. We are confident that such interaction will serve as a catalyst for further cooperation in the tourism sector in the region.
The new millennium brings with it new challenges as well as new hope and new opportunities. With the recovery of the regional economy, we are witnessing a resurgence of the tourism industry in the Asia-Pacific region. APEC is committed to the advancement of tourism. The high level of inter-regional tourism provides a strong platform for APEC Member Economies to pursue sustainable economic, social, environmental and cultural development with a view to peace and shared prosperity.
With the successful conclusion of the 18th Tourism Working Group Meeting and this Forum, we are on track to produce the APEC Tourism Charter, thus paving the way for a successful meeting of APEC ministers responsible for tourism to be held in Seoul in coming July. I wish to thank you for your efforts and your contribution today.
In conclusion, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to HK SAR for the excellent arrangements and generous hospitality accorded to us.
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