Excellency Madam Vo Thi Thang, Chairperson of the 4th APEC TMM,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honor for me to be present here at the 4th APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting (TMM). The very fact that the Meeting is taking place in Hoi An is highly significant as this magnificent ancient city is a world's cultural heritage site as declared by UNESCO. The city is a great tourist attraction due to its harmonious blend of the Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese cultural traditions.
Let me take this opportunity to express my high appreciation to the authorities and people of Hoi An for their great efforts in overcoming the ravages of the last devastative storms so that we can have this important meeting here today. Just a week ago, I wondered whether this event would still take place because of the severe consequences of the storms for the city and this very hotel. I am deeply impressed by the resilience of the city and people here in braving and recovering so quickly from such a formidable natural challenge.
As the representative from the 2006 SOM Chair's Office has already reported to the Meeting on the 2006 APEC progress, allow me just to highlight the important developments in APEC with regards to tourism.
Enhancing recognition of the importance of tourism
APEC has long acknowledged the advantage and important role of the tourism sector as a major contributor to the development and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
Firstly, there is an undeniable advantage of the Asia-Pacific region in terms of tourism given its immense landmass and water area, extremely diverse climates and landscapes, natures and peoples, cultures and traditions, faiths and languages. Such uniqueness and diversity are hardly found in any other part of the globe and this has made the region attractive to people around the world. The United States, Japan and China have the greatest annual demand for tourism and travel amounting up to US$1.5 trillions, 500 billions and 250 billions respectively. Russia, China, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Mexico, and Chinese Taipei also have the highest growth of tourism and travel demand in the region.
Secondly, based on this advantage, the tourism sector can contribute significantly to achieving high economic growth for APEC member economies through generating a significant source of revenue (contributing over 10% of GDP in more than half of APEC member economies). It also provides business opportunities and well being to millions of stakeholders involved in the industry (accounting for over 10% of total employment in US, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, PNG, and Brunei Darussalam). The tourism sector can also help APEC in attaining the Bogor goals of free and open trade and investment as it promotes the reduction of barriers for the freer movement of people, goods, services and financial resources.
Thirdly, through fruitful cooperation and exchange in the area of tourism, APEC member economies of different political, economic, social and cultural background can build better mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual respect. These are indispensable for community building so as to implement APEC's long-term vision of an Asia-Pacific community with shared interests of stability, security and prosperity.
Tourism development and cooperation in APEC
With the deep understanding of the importance of tourism as a vehicle of socio-economic development, over the past years, APEC has conducted a huge amount of work to promote the development and regional cooperation in the area of tourism. To provide an over view of the process of tourism development and cooperation in APEC, I would like to draw your attention to some salient features.
Tourism cooperation has been put on a solid institutional base. The adoption of the APEC Tourism Charter in 2000 was a turning point in the development of the tourism industry in the APEC region. The Charter represents a collective commitment to improve the economic, cultural, social and environmental well being of APEC Member Economies through tourism. Recognizing the important role tourism can play in APEC's socio-economic development, the Charter established four key policy goals and an agreed process for realizing these goals, including developing a network of skills standardization institutions, Committees, Certification and Accreditation in the tourism industry. We are looking forward to substantive discussion on all these key issues in the next few hours at this Meeting.
Tourism cooperation has gone deep into the substance, trying to tackle essential and practical issues in order to remove impediments to tourism business and investment, to increase the freer movement of visitors and demand for tourism goods and services, to ensure a safe and secure business environment for tourism, to exercise sustainable management of tourism outcomes and impacts, etc. The effective solution of these issues would help a great deal to promote tourism development and its contribution to achieving socio-economic goals of APEC member economies.
The position of tourism as an important contributor to socio-economic development has been recognized and supported not only in the TWG, AICST and TMM but also in other APEC fora. The Ministerial Meeting on Avian Influenza and Pandemic in May 2006 in Da Nang adopted an Action Plan on the Prevention and Response to Avian and Influenza Pandemic, in which APEC members committed to enhancing cooperation to ensure business continuity by supporting the development of information exchange on the management of travelers to increase transparency and minimize risk to trade and travel. In June 2006, the Meeting of the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) emphasized the need to ensure that trade and travel management practices are based on the best available science and are in accordance with relevant international standard setting bodies and meet WTO obligations. Given the fact that a number of SMEs in the region are engaged in the tourism and travel industry, its is significant that the Finance Ministers in their Hanoi Medium-Term Agenda that was adopted in September 2006 stressed the need of "improving financial access for SMEs" as a priority policy area. The SME Ministerial Meeting in September 2006 recognized the importance of assisting those SMEs and micro-enterprises in local cultural industries. Other projects implemented by the Counter-terrorism Task Force (CTTF) such as the reduction of airport vulnerability to Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), the initiative to secure travel by the pilot program of the Regional Movement Alert List (RMAL) and by detecting the fraudulent use of travel documents, etc. have contributed to combating the movement of terrorists within the region, while facilitating the travel of legitimate business and tourist people.
One of the salient and significant features of APEC tourism cooperation is its focus on capacity building and technical assistance, which are badly needed for developing member economies. Through the ECOTECH program, a number of activities and projects have been carried out or are under implementation. Just to name a few: "Tourism Impediments Study"; "Tourism Occupational Skills Standards in the APEC region"; "Strengthening Safety and Security Best Practices Against Terrorism for Sustainable Tourism Development"; "Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism Management Initiatives for APEC Economies"; "Total Tourism Management - A Practical System for Managing Sustainable Tourism"; "Total Tourism Management - An Asia Pacific Model for Improving Sustainable Tourism Management Practices in Destinations" and "Sustainable Tourism Indicators"; "Risk Management and SME Training & Development Project for APEC Region"; "Tourism Risk Management in the Asia Pacific Region - An Authoritative Guide to Managing Crises and Disasters". All those projects have been very instrumental for enhancing the development of tourism in the APEC region.
Through the wide range of APEC activities and projects undertaken each year, APEC's network of ministers, officials, business leaders and academic researchers in the area of tourism is growing stronger. Cooperation with private sector and international organizations has also developed effectively. APEC has granted guest status and has fruitful collaboration with Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), World Tourism Organization (WTO), World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and Macao, China. APEC's collaboration with them extends from the sharing of information on various issues affecting the tourism industry to jointly undertaking projects in the region. This working relationship is mutually beneficial. Futhermore, APEC's work on the "Tourism Impediments Study" and "APEC Tourism Occupational Skills Standards Stage" undertaken by the TWG may also provide indirect contribution to the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on trade in services.
In promoting the regional tourism development and cooperation, I would like to emphasize the particularly important role played by the APEC Tourism Working Group (TWG) and APEC International Center for Sustainable Tourism (AICST).
In the past years the TWG has overseen over 20 APEC capacity building and research projects. They covered issues such as counter-terrorism best practices in tourism, tourism occupational skills standards development, small and medium tourism enterprises, studies on tourism impediments, best practices in sustainable tourism management initiatives as well as public and private partnership for facilitating tourism investment in the APEC region. The TWG has also undertaken an Independent Assessment of its work. The project responded to the APEC Ministers' call in November 2004 and is aimed at assisting the TWG in its strategic review of priorities and direction for future work, including a strategic review of the Tourism Charter adopted in 2000 as instructed by the 3rd APEC Tourism Ministerial Meeting in 2004.
AICST as a research body has done an important job in promoting and conducting several self-funded projects. Currently, AICST is finalizing a project entitled "Risk Management and SME Training & Development Project for the APEC Region". Three risk management training modules are being produced dealing with: An Introduction to Risk Management in Tourism; How to Develop a Risk Management Strategy for a Tourism Related SME; and How to Develop a Risk Management Strategy for a Tourism Destination. All of the material will be published and distributed freely to all APEC Economies before the end of 2006.
While APEC has done a huge amount of work in tourism development and cooperation, there are still challenges to overcome in order to make tourism an effective vehicle for economic and social development in the region. These include work:
1. To further tackle impediments to tourism business and investment through policy coordination, harmonization of regulations and procedures, standardization of skills, mutual recognition of certification and accreditation, improvement of tourism infrastructure;
2. To promote tourism development within the APEC region and with other parts of the world through cooperation in coordinating tour packages, connecting flights as well as preservation and promotion of historical, cultural and environmental sites of tourism attraction;
3. To remove or mitigate any threat to the tourism industry such as terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and man-made environmental degradation;
4. To manage the tourism industry in a sustainable development pattern to minimize any negative impact of tourist activities on the social, cultural and environmental well-being of member economies;
The Hoi An Tourism Ministerial Meeting: Cooperation for Common Prosperity
Against this background, I would like to express our high appreciation to the Government of Viet Nam, in particular the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), for organizing the 4th Tourism Ministerial Meeting under the theme of "Promoting APEC Tourism Cooperation for Common Prosperity". We have high expectations that the Tourism Ministerial Meeting will set strategic guidance and direction to tackle all of those and other challenges faced by the tourism industry in the APEC region.
Especially, the "Hoi An Declaration on Promoting APEC Tourism Cooperation" that will be adopted by the Ministers at this Meeting will set another important landmark in tourism development and cooperation in our region. This endeavour certainly contributes to reinforcing the central theme of the APEC Viet Nam year 2006 "Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity". The theme highlights the fact that despite the different levels of economic dynamism and development as well as varying social, cultural and political system, our Asia-Pacific community has a shared prosperous future.
With that in mind, may I wish the 4th Tourism Ministerial Meeting a great success.
I thank you.