“Tourism cooperation not only enhances our mutual understanding and friendship but also boosts our practical cooperation in many industries,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a message read by Vice Premier Wang Yang during the opening ceremony of the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
Mr. Li, in his message, noted “China is ASEAN’s largest resource for tourists” and the Asian powerhouse is ready to “take the tourism year to inject a small impetus to the upgrading of China-ASEAN relations to a new era.”
According to Department of Tourism (DoT) data, in January 2017, China accounted for 85,948 tourist arrivals, a 76.46% increase from last year’s numbers from the same period. Mr. Wang, in his own speech, said a third of all foreign tourists coming to China come from ASEAN member economies while Chinese outbound tourism has increased at an annual rate of 11.7% in the past five years and has now reached 120 million last year.
The increasing number of Chinese travelling to the Philippines have prompted Chinese airline, China Southern Airlines to set up plans to replace current plane models with the bigger Airbus 330. The airline regularly has flights from Beijing to Manila.
ASEAN member economies include the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Philippines said tourism remains a top priority because it will benefit more people.
“[There will be] focus on sustainable and inclusive growth. We endeavor to implement policies and programs that would benefit more people in the region. With tourism, we anticipate growth in our trade export, agriculture, transportation, logistics, and business process outsourcing,” said President Rodrigo R. Duterte in a speech read by DoT Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo.
The Philippines is currently the rotating chairman of the ASEAN. The tourism cooperation year signals the start of more meetings with Chinese counterparts. Ms. Teo told reporters on Thursday that China has invited the Philippines to a summit scheduled in September in Chengdu, but did not provide details.
In turn, the Philippines also invited China to the 6th United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) Conference in Tourism Statistics happening in Manila this June. The conference, with a focus on measuring sustainable tourism, “aims to address the issue of the measurement of sustainable tourism in the framework of the 2017 United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development,” according to the UNWTO website.