Dai Bin|Chinese Perspective and International Presentation of the World Center of Tourism and Leisure

2022-03-18 16:07:00       Size:[L  M  S]

Chinese Perspective and International Presentation of the World Center of Tourism and Leisure

Lecture Marking the 22nd Anniversary of Macau University of Science and Technology & the 15th Anniversary of Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Management

(March 18, 2022, Macau University of Science and Technology)

Dai Bin, President of China Tourism Academy

I. International experience and Chinese solutions for building the world center of tourism and leisure

By studying the world tourism industry, we could reach an interesting conclusion: developed countries such as the European Union, North America, Japan and the ROK and their cities all attach great importance to the development of tourism and have enacted laws and adopted growth strategies and industrial policies for this purpose. These laws, strategies and policies are mostly market-based, commercial and technical, such as the measures that can be taken to take to attract Chinese tourists and achieve the desired goals. On the other hand, few countries have set the goal of building themselves into world-class, international tourist destinations. Island nations, regions and cities in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and South Pacific, while also investing heavily in tourism development and launching eyes-catching slogans, such as “100% Pure New Zealand”, to attract tourists from specific markets, have not chosen to introduce such grand narrative as world-class, national destinations. Rather, they are focused more on cultural enhancement and national education activities such as “online excursions” and “virtual museum discovery” during the pandemic. In terms of literature and discourse, we could also find little information as to what the criteria for world-class destinations are, who should be rating them, or who should be doing the work.

In fact, either they are metropolises like London, Paris, Rome, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, or historical and cultural cities like Venice, Casablanca and Nara, or sports and leisure cities like Singapore, Las Vegas and the Gold Coast, what we take for granted as world-class tourism cities or international destination cities are often shaped through the interactions among investment institutions, professional operators, travel agents, government and community, as well as the word-of-mouth communication of international tourists and travelers. In this process, the lists regularly published by media organizations and travel magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Documentary Channel, Lonely Planet and Le Guide Michelin have a notable role to play.[1]

It must be noted that there is no supranational organization or naturally credible institution to endorse media companies, travel magazines and the lists they publish, i.e. the destination that makes into a certain list would naturally become a world-class or national tourism destination. Rather, these lists are all communication projects or advertising products competing on an equal basis, and their publishers are also equally competing market players. The winners of such competition, which have passed the test of the market, will have a greater say in the evaluation system of world-class tourism cities and international tourism destinations.

Unlike developed countries and regions where tourism destinations evolve or grow naturally, many Chinese cities choose to set a clear goal for their place in the national and world tourism landscape on the very first day they decided to develop tourism. Moreover, they would confirm this goal through statutory procedures such as party committees, people’s congresses and government work reports, as well as legal documents such as five-year development plans and annual work plans. Some cities even have their tourism vision laid out in the national strategy. For example, the 14th Five-Year Plan for Tourism Development issued by the State Council supports Guilin in building a world-class tourism city, and the relevant documents of the central government also include support measures for building Hainan into an international center of tourism consumption and building Macau into a world center of tourism and leisure. For cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the vision of building world-class tourism destinations, international tourism cities and international tourism consumption centers is more often driven by the need of economic and social development and urban upgrade.[2]

Looking back at the 40-plus years since the launch of reform and opening up, especially during the past decade, China’s Mainland has scored remarkable achievements in economic growth and social development. In 2021, on the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping solemnly proclaimed that after the sustained struggle of the entire Party and people of all ethnic groups, we have achieved the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects on the Chinese land, and historically solved the problem of absolute poverty. China is now proudly marching toward the second centenary goal of building a great modern socialist country. According to the Statistical Bulletin on National Economic and Social Development in 2021 released by the National Bureau of Statistics, in the face of multiple challenges such as the complex international environment, the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions, China’s GDP still expanded by 8.1% year-on-year, with an average annual growth of 5.1% in the last two years. China is now the world’s second largest economy, totaling 114.4 trillion yuan in size, accounting for more than 18% of the world economy and contributing to 25% of global growth.

Never before has China moved so close from the edge to the center of world stage, and never before has China so looked forward to dialogue with the world as equals, put forward its ideas and make its contributions to the growth of tourism and other economic sectors, social progress, global governance and the evolution of human civilization. As a latecomer to the global tourism development system, China has long played the role of tourist destination rather than tourist source, and has relatively little say in almost everything, from development concepts to resource development, from industry planning to service standards. The rapid growth of the outbound tourism market over the past two decades has greatly increased China’s influence in the world tourism industry, but it has not yet changed the established pattern of global tourism governance at the ideological and cultural levels.

From the inbound tourism destination cities represented by Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Guilin in the 1980s, to the model Chinese tourism cities advocated by China National Tourism Administration in the late 1990s, and to the nationwide campaign of building international tourism destinations in the last decade, the mayors of almost all Chinese cities are looking for international cities that they can mirror. They will send expert teams to study the achievements and experience of tourism and leisure development in their model cities, devise a set of quantifiable statistical indicators based on what they have learned, and use them as samples and their own development goals. They will also try every possible means to seek endorsement of intergovernmental international organizations, preferably those within the UN system. For example, the UNWTO had awarded the title of “World’s Top 15 Model Cities for Best Practices in Tourism” to Hangzhou, and the title of “Best Tourism Village” to Hongcun and other places, all of which received positive response from the local governments and official media.

According to incomplete statistics, more than 100 Chinese cities have set tourism development goals with the prefix “world-class” and “international”. China has also proposed for the establishment of the World Tourism Alliance, the World Tourism Cities Federation and the International Mountain Tourism Alliance, and regularly holds the International Mayor’s Forum on Tourism to add more international features to the host cities. According to the 14th Five-Year Plan for Tourism Development, Guilin, among others, will be built into world-class tourism cities in the next five years. Meanwhile, a number of world-class scenic spots and resorts with profound cultural heritage, and a number of national tourism and leisure cities and neighborhoods with distinctive cultural characteristics will also be built. Driven by the twin engines of national planning and local development, the Mainland will start a new round of construction of international tourism cities, and pay more attention to the achievements, experience and strategies of Macau in building a world center of tourism and leisure.

II. The connotation of the world center of tourism and leisure and direction of innovation

Whether it is the self-perception of cities or the external assessment of competent departments and professional institutions, the connotations of international tourism cities are mostly examined from a tourist perspective, especially economic factors such as international tourist arrivals, tourism income, contribution to economy and employment, tourism resources as well as the market supply of scenic spots, hotels, theme parks, resorts and travel agencies. The indicators for observation are also designed based on this logic. However, with the progress of the times and the evolution of the market, cities that are committed to becoming global leaders in tourism development are increasingly focusing on non-economic factors such as culture, art, technology, innovation and ethics, and take it as a means to enhance the soft power and new image of their cities.

The world center of tourism and leisure should, and can, become globally influential art centers and cultural hubs. Music, dance, painting, film and other forms of arts are the vehicles of cultural exchanges unfettered by the boundaries of ethnicity, religion and race. Together with literature such as poetry, prose and fiction, and cultural spaces such as historical relics, museums and libraries, they are the building blocks of the Chinese national community and the human community with a shared future.

Macau has several UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites and Portuguese-style architecture, a unique entertainment, leisure and dining culture, and numerous religious and cultural sites with distinctive Chinese cultural features such as Buddhist and Taoist temples, monasteries and shrines. More importantly, the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” has created wide space for cultural creation and institutional innovation.

A world-class tourism and leisure center should also be a global center of art, fashion and culture, and make greater efforts to introduce classic art and contemporary cultural products from all over the world. Macau should introduce more artworks from the Mainland, including the traditional Peking opera and contemporary art, to open a window on contemporary Chinese culture. In recent years, the stage art represented by Thousands Miles of Mountains and Rivers, Li Bai, Confucius and Five Stars Rise in the East has used the artistic language to express the patriotic spirit of the Chinese people, a sentiment that is appreciated by people of all cultural backgrounds. Because of these efforts, the heritage on the Chinese land, the cultural relics in the imperial palace, and the characters in ancient literature have all been brought to life.

Macau should also create cultural works with a contemporary style and an artistic ethos for the future. Art is not just about the classics played in the theaters, but also includes popular art and culture liked by tourists. Disney and Universal Studios, the Legoland Parks of Merlin Entertainment, Peppa Pig, and the House of Dancing Water live show in Macau are all popular cultural works for tourists. Colorful and creative arts and culture have added fresh impetus to tourism development.

The world center of tourism and leisure center should and can become a new space for tourists from all countries and regions and the local residents of Macau to share a beautiful life together. Only when the locals love and enjoy their life, can the city attract visitors from other countries, get their genuine recognition and make them truly satisfied. Never before has any city become a world-class tourist destination when its own residents do not have a sense of happiness and belonging. On the contrary, a city that always puts its residents front and center, and gives them a feeling of safety, quality and happiness will eventually attract more visitors to share the colorful life from theaters to food markets.

As a matter of fact, our understanding about this phenomenon, especially its underlying logic, has deepened over time. In the last two decades of the 20th century, the tourism industry in the Mainland benefited tremendously from the policy of opening up. Inbound tourists, including foreigners, Hong Kong and Macau compatriots, Taiwan compatriots and overseas Chinese nationals, constituted the backbone of the tourism market. Because of the limited consumption, relatively short stay and small area of activities of inbound tourists, the scenic spots where they visited, the foreign-related hotels they stayed in, the designated stores they shopped from and the tourist buses they traveled with together formed a closed world independent of the locals, or using a more academic term, an “environmental bubble” or “tourist bubble”.[3]

In the first two decades of the 21st century, the backbone of the Mainland tourism market shifted to the mass tourism backed by the tourist spending of average Chinese tourists. Beijingers traveled to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou, and residents of Guangzhou travelled to Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Hong Kong and Macau, free from language barriers or the requirement of travel documents. The convenience of smart communications and financial payments reduced the information asymmetry between supply and demand to such a low level that travelers could walk and live as freely as locals. Even during the pandemic, due to proper response, the essential travels between the Mainland and Macau were still well preserved.

In an open and inclusive international tourist city, visitors could find the beauty of travel in any space, from theaters to vegetable markets.[4] This observation can be acquired from the mapping of tourist activities. It has also been confirmed by numerous market innovations during the pandemic, such as the “mini tour of city architecture” launched by Shanghai Spring Tour for local residents.[5] Macau’s experience of tourism development tells us that the business environment, leisure space and lifestyle of cities are the key elements of their tourism competitiveness. They also provide the needed resources for cities to build their tourism image, promote tourism marketing, and develop new products and new forms of business.

As China has completed the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation and people’s happiness provides a new driving force for the growth of inbound tourism. The practice of “One Country, Two Systems” and “Macau people administering Macau” is the soft power of the city, and also an important factor that attracts the visits of international tourists and Mainland residents.

The world center of tourism and leisure should and can become the converging point of industrial factors and innovation hub of growth drivers. For a micro-economy with relatively narrow land space and a relatively small population, it must think about the following questions: How to develop modern tourism when there are neither gorgeous mountains nor time-honored history and culture? How to build a national or even world-class tourist city? By studying the world’s tourism cities or urban tourism destinations with a population of 500,000-1,000,000, we can find that the key to building a modern tourism industry system and creating a world-class tourism destination lies in modern production factors, power of innovation, meticulous management and sophisticated services, not natural resources like mountains and rivers or tangible and intangible cultural heritages.

The classification of cities is very complicated. In terms of the administrative level, cities in China can be divided into municipalities directly under the central government, cities specially designated under the state plan, sub-provincial cities, provincial capitals, prefecture-level cities and county-level cities. In terms of population size, cities can be divided into mega-cities, large cities, medium-sized cities and small cities. According to the World Urban Regions report of the Demographics, China currently has 113 cities with a population of over one million, and North America and the European Union combined have 114 cities. Of course, there are more cities with a population of under one million. Lausanne, Switzerland; Nara, Japan; Los Angeles, U.S.; Wellington, New Zealand; and Macau, China are all internationally renowned tourism and leisure cities that both cherish their fine historical traditions, and command the ability of cultural creativity and technological innovation needed in the future.

Over the past decade, the Mainland has been actively promoting the concept of smart tourism, and steadily building a modern tourism industry based on new infrastructure, the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence through capital-driven entrepreneurship and innovation. With its globally competitive advantages in capital, technology, education and human resources, Macau should and can achieve greater breakthroughs and provide ready experience for the innovative development of urban tourism in the Mainland.

The world center of tourism and leisure should and can become the champion and explorer of the concept of mass tourism, social tourism and green tourism. After more than 40 years of reform and opening up, China has entered a new stage of all-round development of mass tourism. Keeping to the people-first approach, pursuing the goal of modernization, shaping tourism with culture and presenting culture with tourism, and steadily advancing the high-quality development of tourismthis has become a consensus widely shared between the central and local governments and between the government and the industry.

Social tourism, which is closely linked to the people-first orientation of mass tourism, emphasizes the protection of tourist rights by administrative power. The government must, first and foremost, guarantee the right to tourism of the people in their own country and region, as well as their right to leisure on this land, and must not sacrifice the quality life of local residents for tourism development. Meanwhile, cities should guarantee the right of visiting tourists to share their beautiful scenery and wonderful life with a more open and inclusive mindset, and more pragmatic judicial and administrative services.

Green tourism is a model of tourism consumption and industrial development based on ecological civilization and cultural diversity. It also represents the future of tourism destinations in the Mainland and Macau, and thus requires more in-depth cooperation in theoretical exploration and practical innovation. In the past ten years, we have creatively explored new forms of tourism such as ice and snow tourism, summer resort tourism and night tourism, and vigorously put into practice the development concepts of “clear water and lush mountains are mountains of gold and silver” and “snow and ice are also mountains of gold and silver”. Going forward, we need to earnestly implement the Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization with the courage of theoretical exploration and wisdom of practical innovation, and make greater efforts to promote sustainable tourism development.

III. Science and education support for building the world center of tourism and leisure and vision of future cooperation

Tourism is a major pillar industry for Macau, employing a quarter of the local workforce and generating more than 40% of the local income. Macau is also a city of great happiness. According to the Macau Statistics and Census Service, the city ranks among the top three in the world and the first in China in per capita GDP. From the moderate liberalization of the gaming industry in 2002, to the building of a service platform for trade and commerce between China and Portuguese-speaking countries in 2004, and to the building of a world center of tourism and leisure in 2007, Macau has embarked on a clear path toward moderate economic diversity after the reunification, and the momentum of rapid economic growth has been further secured. The number of tourist visits in Macau has quadrupled during the last two decades, increasing from 10 million in 2002 to 39.4 million in 2019. The total spending of visitors to Macau also expanded from US$48 billion in 2002 to US$270 billion in 2019, up by 5.6% per annum. Compared to other parts of the world, the Mainland has always been a fundamental source market for Macau. In 2019, the number of Mainland visitors to Macau reached 27.9 million, registering an increase of 36.69%.

In Part X, Chapter 61 “Lasting Prosperity and Stability in Hong Kong and Macau”of the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Vision 2035 of the People’s Republic of China, Section I “support for the SARs’ endeavor to enhance their competitive advantages” clearly pledges to “support Macao in enriching its significance as a world tourism and leisure center, support Guangdong-Macao cooperation on developing the Hengqin region, and help Macao expand its functions as a service platform for business cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, and build itself into a center for exchanges and cooperation where Chinese culture is the mainstream and diverse cultures coexist ... and help Macao appropriately diversify its economy”. Section II “Support for the SARs’ endeavor to better integrate into the overall process of national development” further pledges to “build a high-quality Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, further the cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao as well as the Pan-Pearl River Delta regional cooperation ... boost exchanges and cooperation between the Mainland and the SARs in all fields ... support the SARs in carrying out exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries and regions”.

CTA stands ready to work with Macau’s higher education institutions and research institutes to jointly study and build a digital monitoring system and technical platform for building the world center of tourism and leisure in Macau. This project involves multiple dimensions and indicators such as destination image and perception, source market selection and optimization, infrastructure and public services, investment and hospitality system, competitiveness of market players, new drivers of cultural and technological progress, product development and iteration, tourist satisfaction and community friendliness. The construction of a monitoring system based on scientific models and authoritative data is a fundamental project for building the world center of tourism and leisure in Macau. My team and I are ready to share the national tourism economic operation monitoring and early warning system, the national and outbound tourist satisfaction survey system, and the major research results of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Social Science Fund with Macau, and set up a taskforce to support the SAR government in building the world center of tourism and leisure with our professional services, just as we have been doing for the past ten years or so.

CTA stands ready to work with Macau’s tourism enterprises and research institutions to jointly undertake major national strategic science, technology and innovation projects and thematic research projects in natural sciences, philosophy and social sciences, and jointly apply for key projects of international organizations such as APEC and the Asian Development Bank. The Ministry of Science and Technology, the Natural Science Foundation and the National Office for Philosophy and Social Sciences have all laid out special plans to support Macau’s development. The 14th Five-Year Plan for Tourism Development and the Cultural and Tourism Development Plan have also made special arrangements in this regard. My team and I are ready to strengthen cooperation with local research institutions, universities and large enterprises, and build a closer cooperation mechanism on joint research and collaborative innovation under the framework of “One Country, Two Systems”, with a focus on major projects in the areas of “Belt and Road” tourism exchanges and cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and tourism cooperation in the Greater Bay Area, smart tourism and sustainable development.

CTA stands ready to work with Macau’s tourism sector, relevant institutions and travel agents and jointly explore and build a two-way exchange mechanism to promote study tours between the Mainland and Macau. So far, the visits to the Mainland for young people from Macau to learn about the country’s history, culture and national conditions have produced visible results. In the future, we should bring more young people from the Mainland to Macau to study the city’s cultural heritage and latest achievements in science, technology, education and culture, experience the successful practice of “One Country, Two Systems”, and interact with their counterparts in Macau. My team and I are ready to strengthen cooperation with the Macau Government Tourist Office, tourism colleges, cultural institutions and social groups to expand professional exchanges between the Mainland and Macau in the fields of education, research and think tanks in an orderly manner.

Building the world center of tourism and leisure is a task entrusted by the Central Government to Macau, and a model for the construction of world tourism cities and international tourism destinations in the Mainland. It is a heavy responsibility and a glorious mission that requires the hard work of people from all walks of life, including tourism research and tourism education, from one generation to another. I hope when writing our own history, we can and should be worthy of the following comment: building the world center of tourism and leisure has not only allowed tourists from different countries and regions to share the colorful life of Macau, but also provided the people of Macau with new development opportunities in the strategic process of “one platform, one center and economic diversification”; it has not only enabled Macau and the Greater Bay Area to achieve great commercial success in the strategic process of high-quality tourism development, but also contributed forward-looking concepts to the construction of tourism and leisure cities and city-based tourism development in all countries and regions.

[1] Unlike the Mainland’s regulation of newspapers, magazines and media organizations, these magazines that promote and rate tourist destinations, hotels, restaurants and theme parks are registered by private or public companies, and the lists they publish do not require government approval or authorization. Their stature in the industry and recognition of the travelers are the result of market competition, not natural monopoly. With the advent of the Internet era, a group of Internet-enabled professional media have been born in the Mainland and very active in the field of tourism. It is not impossible that they may become the evaluators and promoters of international destinations in the future.

[2] Unless otherwise specified, the interpretation of the connotation, indicators and path of building a world center of tourism and leisure center in Macau in this paper is equally applicable to the building of world-class tourism cities, world-class tourism destinations, and international tourism cities in the Mainland.

[3] Readers that are interested in this topic could look up for the “environmental bubble” concept proposed by Cohen in 1972 or the term “tourist bubble” coined by Cohen &Avieli in 2004. With the combined effect of the psychological safety mechanism on the demand side and commercial institutions on the supply side, although tourists step on a foreign land, they conduct most of their activities in tourist spaces such as scenic spots, hotels, restaurants, duty-free stores, etc., which are prepared specially for outbound tourists. As these spaces are mostly provided through the business model of chain operations and the commercial presence of multinational companies, tourists are still exposed to an environment that they are comfortable with despite being in a foreign country. In this case, there is actually an invisible “protective wall” between the tourist spaces prepared for tourists and the living spaces of local residents.

[4] On October 14, 2019, I was invited to Macau to attend the Global Tourism Economy Forum and delivered a keynote speech “Rediscovering the Beauty of Travel: Theatre to Market”. The full transcript is included in the National Tourism and Leisure Lectures (VI) Tourism &Economy, Beijing, Tourism Education Press, May 2020, available on the website and WeChat public number of China Tourism Academy.

[5] Readers that are interested in this topic could check the innovative projects on the integration of culture and tourism published in the 2020 and 2021 CTG Development Forums, available on the official website and WeChat public number of China Tourism Academy.

Copy Right © China Tourism Academy
Website Management: CNTA Information Center