September 4th witnessed the closing ceremony of the 2019 World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) Helsinki Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit. The summit attracted over 500 delegates from nearly 100 cities in 56 countries. During the summit, speakers and guests alike stated that the WTCF has provided a multilateral platform that houses a number of features. Among them includes a medium to spur discussions on the development of the sector, enhance international communication, inject more vitality into the communication and cooperation among international cities, foster common prosperity, and win-win reciprocity to fuel the growth of the global tourism economy.
Providing a platform to enhance the sharing of tourism development opportunities
Global cities are the major destinations, sources of international travel and main distribution centers of global tourism. More than 80% of the world’s tourism activities take place in global cities. Wang Hong, Executive Vice Chairperson of WTCF Council and Vice Mayor of Beijing, pointed out that the WTCF is the world’s first international tourism organization focusing on cities and that it has been, since its foundation in 2012, adhering to the core vision of Better City Life through Tourism and promoting the globalization, technological soundness, and integrated development of global tourism by actively establishing the platform for multilateral cooperation among the world’s top cities.
The initiation of new members from 2018 to 2019
The WTCF was initiated by 58 members. After 7 years of development, the federation is now composed of 218 members, which cover 73 countries and territories around the world as well as the whole industrial chain of global tourism. Currently, the WTCF’s activities include the Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit, regional tourism conferences and international tourism exhibitions, offering its member cities and agencies a diverse platform for communication and cooperation.
Helsinki is the first European city to host the Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit. Mayor Jan Vapaavuori stated that, thanks to the help of the WTCF, Tencent and Helsinki cooperated to develop the Wechat applet of the “Helsinki City Travelling Bag” in 2018, providing nearly 1 billion Wechat users with a detailed travelling guide and digital self services in Helsinki. This has not only earned Helsinki the favor of more Chinese tourists but also comprehensively improved the digitalization of the city and the travelling experiences of tourists.
Vice Mayor of Paris, Jean François Martins has participated in two such summits. He said, “The summit provides a platform of communication and mutual learning for global cities and enables these destinations and agencies alike to share the successful experience of further developing tourism. This has provided new ideas for the sustainable development of tourism in Paris.”
The Secretary-General of WTCF Song Yu mentioned at the summit that the WTCF shall comprehensively improve its services by making full use of its ability to organize activities and provide additional features on the platform. The organization also looks to vigorously enhance communication between city and agency members, explore an easier and more effective tourism service module, while continuously enabling these destinations to contribute to a more seamless experience in the world travel industry.
Making its voice heard and spurring discussions on the development of global tourism
Faced with the economical and political challenges of the world, the industry needs not only an open platform of communication, but also a chance to gather the input of all respective parties via the platform in order to find solutions to present challenges. By initiating the shared economy during the Chongqing Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit, the globalization declaration during the Los Angeles Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit and smart tourism during the Helsinki Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit, the WTCF has actively proposed new ideas on developing tourism cities, carried out in-depth research into major topics of international tourism and spurred discussions on the progression of the industry.
The site of tourism trading during the 2019 WTCF Helsinki Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit
In addition, the WTCF has also established through research the assessment system of global tourism cities. The federation has publicized for 5 straight years the Report on World Tourism Economy Trends, and for 4 straight years the Annual Report on Development of World Tourism Cities, providing reference for making decisions on global tourism investment. During the 2019 summit, the WTCF released the Global Report on Smart Tourism in Cities, encouraging experience-sharing in an effort for cities to better develop themselves according to their own features.
Umberto Fugiglando, Research Manager & Partnerships Lead, Senseable City Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believed that this summit has provided global tourism cities with a platform for communication, experience sharing and narrowing the distance.
Multilateral cooperation enhances global interaction
During the Rabat & Fez Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit 2015, WTCF cooperated with China's major travel agencies to host the “Moroccan Thousand People Tour”, which has greatly promoted the development of China-Morocco tourism. In 2016, with the continuous growth of Chinese tourists, Morocco implemented a visa-free policy for Chinese citizens. In 2016, the federation signed a contract with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), promoting the development of the Belt and Road economic corridors and node cities and enhancing the multilateral communication and cooperation of global tourism. In 2017, the WTCF assigned a delegation to visit Dominica, a country China had not established diplomatic ties with yet. The delegation had a meeting with the mayors of Dominica’s 2 top destinations Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, facilitating the cooperation after China established diplomatic relations with the country. In 2017, after the Chinese government established diplomatic ties with Panama, the WTCF soon included Panama City as one of its city members. In 2019, the WTCF cooperated with Panama City to hold the Latin Americana & the Caribbean Tourism Conference.
As one of the most influential international organizations for global tourism, the WTCF has been, while ensuring good services for its members, promoting cooperation with civil society and other global tourism organizations, echoing the key projects of the Belt and Road Initiative, and enhancing international interaction. The Executive Director of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Zhu Shanzhong said that the partnership between the UNWTO and the WTCF is rather precious and helpful. The Secretary-General of SCO Vladimir Norov mentioned that the SCO has established close cooperation with the WTCF and that this has promoted exchanges for the “Belt and Road Initiative” and contributed to the tourism development in Eurasia. This November, the SCO will, together the WTCF, hold the WTCF Asia Pacific Tourism Conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan to promote the tourism development.
The WTCF has established a great number of platforms for mutually beneficial cooperation, cultural understanding, and set forward a great number of declarations, proposals and initiatives. The federation has echoed the call of the times (global tourism enhances globalization), and made its voice heard all throughout the world, hence playing a key role in promoting global tourism, communication and cooperation.
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