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Speech by Mr Toshihiro Nikai MP,
Secretary-General of the New Conservative Party and former Minister of Transport of Japan
at the Plenary Session
International Cooperation for Tourism Development Under A New Paradigm
"Revitalizing Asian Tourism"
14th July 2003

Mr Long Yongu, honorable ministers from the Asian countries, distinguished delegates and leaders of the tourism industry from all over the world, I would like to say a few words representing the tourism industry in Japan.

A large number of representatives from the governments, tourism organizations and tourism industries of Asian countries have gathered here in Hong Kong, pledging to bring about a comeback at a time when we are finally beginning to recover from the SARS tragedy that suddenly struck the Asian countries. The Hong Kong conference on Revitalizing Asian Tourism is in fact a good opportunity to exchange constructive views on cooperation towards the future and on strategies for the mutual support of tourism promotion within the whole Asian region with the aim of revitalizing tourism exchange. I would cordially like to pay my respects to the Boao Forum for Asia, the World Tourism Organization and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for holding this conference.

Considering the current situation surrounding tourism in the world and especially the severe conditions that the tourism industries of the Asian countries are facing in common, I sincerely hope that the conference can take the role of a springboard to spur the earliest possible recovery of tourism exchange in the Asian region.

The tourism industry showed remarkable development around the globe during the latter half of the 20th century. By bringing about encounters with a wide variety of cultures, histories and national identities as people cross national borders and language barriers, and by deepening mutual understanding and respect through mutual exchange among citizens from distant nations, international tourism even has a role to play in the noble mission of contributing to world peace.

In every country, the tourism industry is playing a vital role for economic vitalization and the expansion of job opportunities. It is said that one out of ten to fifteen people in the world are making their living in the tourism industry. In Japan, some 4 million people are working in tourism. With economic spin-offs reaching 50 trillion yen (approximately 400 billion US dollars), there is no doubt that the tourism industry is positioned as a key industry of the new era in Japan. It goes without saying that the tourism industry is the world's leading industry in the new century.

In particular, the Asian region with a population reaching 3.7 billion or 60 percent of the world total is expected to play a core role in the rapid expansion of tourism exchange in the world and at the same time bears a prime responsibility. The highest forecast from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) for average annual growth in international tourist arrivals between 2000 and 2010 is for East Asia & the Pacific region with a forecast growth rate of 7.7%. The Asian region is standing far ahead of other regions in the dawn of mass exchange on a global scale.

However, while tourism in Asia seemed to be enjoying smooth sailing, it has been recently encountering difficult circumstances such as weak economies, terrorist attacks and the spread of SARS. Especially this year, travel demand has been tremendously affected by the global trend to restrict overseas travel following the start of the war in Iraq and the outbreak of SARS, coming at a time when it had yet to recover from the shock of terrorism attacks.

It is much to our delight to see the spread of SARS being halted eventually in Asia, as a result of strong leadership shown by government leaders and cooperation among nations to prevent the worldwide spread of the disease. I myself visited China to see President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders in Beijing in the midst of the furious spread of SARS as one of the secretary-generals from the three ruling parties of Japan. I remember feeling confident of the early end of the situation after hearing the Chinese government's extraordinary resolve for the eradication of SARS. With the spread of SARS arrested, it is anticipated that demand for travel by people who had been refraining from overseas travel will recover rapidly on a global scale.

The people of the world are waiting anxiously to see this new trend and are watching for concrete and aggressive action from tourism leaders. We are expected to come up with concrete actions to overcome the challenges that we share in common today.

Concrete action means efforts by the leaders gathered today to become frontrunners in promoting tourism exchange with the Asian region. As Japan is one of the major sources of outbound tourists in the region, we are ready to cooperate with those countries planning to implement tourism promotion campaigns in Japan through public and private sector coordination. I wish to express my complete agreement with the new proposal for tourism exchange just now mentioned by former Prime Minister Shipley of New Zealand.

Also in Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has announced the concept of "a country built on tourism" and is standing in the forefront to lead the launch of the Visit Japan campaign starting this year, with the aim of substantially increasing the number of travelers to our country from all over the world. We will be strengthening our efforts to attract more people from neighboring countries in Asia. We have already started a study for the implementation of joint promotional campaigns through tie-ups with nearby countries. Measures to increase the number of travelers to Asia from outside the region are especially important. What is most important is to strengthen the coordination of each country to provide accurate travel information and to ensure the safety of travelers in order to eliminate unnecessary concern among people traveling across borders.

Fully understanding the importance of this conference, specialists working in important posts in the public and private sectors from all tourism-related industries have gathered to participate in the Japanese delegation with great expectations towards the future of the tourism industry. I truly hope that this conference, attended by the most powerful leaders of Asian countries, will be a fruitful one, sending an encouraging message for the recovery of the world tourism industry. The Japanese delegation is committed to strongly supporting a declaration to the world that the dawn of an era of mass exchange through mutual efforts has begun. We pin great hopes on the governments and private sectors of countries working together to continue to implement effective measures for the promotion of the tourism industry.

Mister chairman, honorable ministers and distinguished specialists on tourism, let us declare that we shall make our best efforts for the revitalization and the future of the tourism industry in the Asian region!

The law of the desert says that one must keep the oasis clean for the next traveler. So, dear colleagues who are in responsible positions relating to the tourism industry, let's share the future prospects and grasp our responsibilities!

Thank you very much for your attention.

 

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