MANILA-- Tourism in ASEAN member states and China can get the needed boost if there is stronger collaboration rather than conflict and division, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday night.
ASEAN member states include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Reading from a prepared speech of Pres. Duterte, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo opened the 2017 ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation seeking collective effort from ASEAN and China to raise tourism numbers.
"The bond between ASEAN and China, which just last year reached its 25tth year, is a welcome and timely one. The current global situation calls for collaboration rather than conflict and division," Teo said, reading from Pres. Duterte's speech.
"A stronger ASEAN - China cooperation beacons as a testament to the principles of achieving great and good things together," she added.
Year of Tourism Cooperation, which took place at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, was attended by ASEAN tourism ministers, China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) officials, members of the Philippine cabinet, diplomatic corps, tourism stakeholders in the private sector.
Aside from this event, also expected to take place are the China ASEAN Expo Travel Mart, and China ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting.
Pres. Duterte, through Teo, also said that tourism has always been a "top priority" as it would "benefit more people."
"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," the speech read.
The President also maintained that the government stood steadfast in its principles of diplomacy and belief in a non-zero sum game.
"Tourism is just a start. With the sustainability of our resources in mind, the boom in travel through a dedicated leadership and knowledgeable strategy brings all of our great nations closer to one another," it further said.
In an interview with reporters, Teo said that the Year of Tourism Cooperation marked the start of more meetings between China and the Philippines in the following months.
"They're investing us to a summit in September," Teo said, not elaborating which summit she meant.
"We're also inviting them to attend the UNWTO," she added, referring to the upcoming International Conference on Tourism Statistics slated in June.
This conference was held in response to the UN World Tourism Organization's wish for the conduct of a forum to measure sustainable tourism.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, for his part, noted how the number of outbound visits by Chinese has grown in the past five years by average annual rate of 11.7 percent reaching 120 million last year.
He mentioned the increase in the number of Chinese traveling to the Philippines has increased so much that Chinese airline, China Southern Airlines, which flies from Beijing to Manila, has had plans to replace its current model with a bigger Airbus 330.
"There are more and more Chinese tourists traveling to the Philippines and the (airline) company has to change the plane's model from small to big Airbus 330. All the airlines traveling between ASEAN and China will have to shift their airline models," he added.
He, meanwhile, expressed hope that Year of Tourism Cooperation would bring China and ASEAN even closer together than it already is.
Among the top ten sources of tourists to China, half are ASEAN countries. Meanwhile, of all foreign tourists visiting China, a third are from ASEAN countries, Wang said.
Data from the DOT showed that China is the third top visitor market to the Philippines as of January 2017 with 85,948 visitors.
Teo, meanwhile, said that the Department of Tourism (DOT) is still on track of hitting its target of 1 million Chinese tourists by yearend.
Wang is the highest Chinese official to visit the country since Pres. Duterte visited China last year.
Relations between the Philippines and China have vastly improved under Pres. Duterte, who has sought Chinese trade and economic aid while shelving long-running territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
Source: Philippines News Agency