Dear Chairman Mr. Edmund Ho, dear vice governor, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Vice Chairman, Mr. Secretary- General, dear friends,
It’s always a pleasure to be here, in GUIYANG, for the annual conference of the International Mountain Tourism Alliance. Every year since 2016, I’ve had the great opportunity to spend some days in this gorgeous province of Guizhou. To me, this region is a symbol of harmony with various resources, luxuriant forests and splendid valleys in a mild and outstanding climate even more now while we have our own and beautiful headquarters, congratulations to the Guizhou province and the city of Guiyang for their outstanding achievements.
There is no better place to meet and discuss about the perspectives of Chinese and global tourism. In some years, the IMTA has accomplished some major step forwards forward from a very stimulating project to a trusted association gathering respected companies and renowned experts. Here, we all share the common conviction that the fostering harmony between men and nature is all about promoting opening-up tradition and international dialogue.
Of course, the global economic turmoil tends to impact the tourism business.
1) Never before have growth and openness been more challenged than today.
- Over the last months and years, the world has been facing growing tensions affecting trade and domestic demand.
· It’s true in Europe where the Brexit process and the German slowdown are reducing consumption with a forecasted growth of around 1% in 2019;
· It’s true in the U S which is losing global market shares as a destination in particular from China which accounts for around 8% of annual visitors: in 2018, the number of Chinese travelers dropped by 6% compared to 2017;
· It’s also true in China where the trade confrontation with the US is economic uncertainties creating to due combined effect of decreasing lower the national demand and depreciation exports, worsening inflation.
- At the same time, climate stability and social cohesion are put under growing pressures:
· On the one hand, our planet is confronted with unprecedented threats of destruction.
The last general Assembly of the United Nations in September, mainly focused on global issues like global warming, which has become the most alarming challenge of the time:
* Today we know that any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees will escalate into a global disaster. I really wish that the COP 2025 planed in next December, in Chile, will help improve International cooperation and against the climate change;
* We need to be aware of global tourism has also an impact on nature preservation due to the growing pressures on local lands and endangered species. At the IMTA it is our duty to raise an awareness about this major risk.
· On one hand, inequalities are soaring all around the world between losers and winners of globalization:
* The world is torn apart between the richest 1% concentrating around 80% of global wealth and poor people facing unemployment, isolation or underdevelopment;
* But more than a clash between developed and emerging countries, the social gap is extending. In each country of the world where the fruits of globalization have been unfairly distributed:
- There are political divides in leading touristic destinations like Brazil, India, and Italy where populism growingly fed on the lack of inclusiveness;
- There is also an economy discrepancy in some areas between the dynamic economy of coastal regions and the marginalized hinterland of the countryside: look at the high level of inequalities around the Mediterranean Sea in countries like Spain or Morocco.
2) In this trouble context, 2019 has been a time of uncertainty for global tourism
- In the last few years, the sector has been through historic difficulties due to massive disruption of in the industry:
· The lack of adaptation has been devastating in some services as shown by the recent collapse of the British travel agency Thomas Cook, in last September:
* On the one side, this failure had a damaging impact to International investors like the American INVESCO and the Chinese FOSUN.
* On the other side, it had a spill-over effect on tourism-driven economies like Spain, Greece, and Tunisia where tourism represents more than 50% of job.
· But the change of mind sets and the rise of new competitors also generated major difficulties in transport and mobility：
* We can see that considering the cruise industry, which oversupply and pollution of oceans have become big challenges: last June, the global cruise leader CARNIVAL CORPORATION has been sentenced to fine of $20 million in the U S for repeatedly polluting the sea.
* We also see that in traditional airline companies facing a fierce competition as well as a declining reputation due to a huge carbon footprint.
However, the deep transformation of the global market is also creating new opportunities：
· Today the tourism industry is massively shifting towards a new model based on three major trends.
* First, concentration: the multiplication of new entrants, whether digital players or low cost operators such as EASYJET, is pushing for bigger structures, able to face the market shift;
* Second, Internationalization: In a few years, we witness growing interdependencies in the tourism industry with the creation of global partnerships like CLUB MED putting together French management and Chinese shareholders like FOSUN;
* Third, innovation: In a connected world, every company must be in capacity to integrate technology in its business model.
· Especially in China, the tourism industry is an exceptional opportunity to accelerate the transition to an economic driven by high added value services and domestic demand.
* China has leading tourism companies like HNA, FOSUN, WANDA group covering different steps of the value chain from mobility to hospitality;
* China has modern infrastructures like the new mega airport of DaXing, inaugurated last month by president Xi.
* Last but not least, China has a great potential with 150 million outbound travelers and nearly 142 million inbound visitors last years.
Today there is a momentum for a new tourism deal based on diversity and quality.
1) The market trends highlight more demanding and selective expectations of global travelers.
- First, in a time of slowdown in volatility, tourism remained a strong matter of growth and development:
· It’s the case in terms of economic revenue: In 2018 the world travel and tourism business generated a total turnover of $8.8 trillion reaching around 10% of global GDP;
· It’s the case in terms of infrastructure development with the extensions of roads, highways, airports, and hotel building in emerging countries: In recent times, Asia, the Middle-East and Africa have been highly dynamic markets of worldwide tourism.
· It’s also the case in terms of cultural openness and mutual understanding with the continuous rise of global travelers. Last year, the international tourist arrivals reached an outstanding number of 1.4 billion people from all around the world.
- Second, there is a room for more quality in a fast moving environment. Designing the tourism of the 21 century means understanding the new trends of the market:
· First people are now considering tourism as an activity, guiding wellbeing as well as culture and entertainment. That's why diversification became a key asset for companies with a large offer bundling sport has leisure and intellectual stimulation. There are plenty of exciting projects that could be learned like a Wine Road or a Tea Road from China to France and England, Italy combining culture, health and gastronomy；
· Second, people are more and more aware of the environmental risk, threatening the nature, especially in mountain areas: If carbon emissions continued to increase two-thirds of glacier ice in the French ALPS could melt by the end of the century. Ecology is now a major challenge for tourism;
· Third, comfort and quality of life have also become a leading factor of success: That's what we see in Middle-Eastern places like Dubai where hotel brands give priority to the quality of customer service.
2) My conviction is that mountain tourism can be the pillar of quality and sustainability.
- Rural and mountain tourism is creating ever more interest in a world where people are trying to reconnect with nature:
· Today mountain tourism represents around 20% of the sector with very promising activities like hiking, trekking and skiing: the growing demand for healthy sports and quality of air is up running attractive business perspective in mountainous regions like the natural parks of California and the silent valleys of India where I had the chance to serve as a young diplomat;
· China is really well positioned to take advantage from natural resources and exceptional lifestyles: Here in Guizhou, we have a perfect illustration of natural and ethnic diversity with unique arts and traditions. At the Eve of the next Olympic Winter Games of Beijing in 2022, China has a huge opportunity to show its growing commitments towards sustainable tourism.
But high quality tourism also requires bold and ambitious initiatives:
· First we need economic projects like building up infrastructures in remote areas such as Western China and central Asia:
* Implementing inclusive projects of roads, highways, and railways is the best alternative to isolation: this is how the Belt and Road initiative launched by President Xi in 2013, has become a game changer for the next decades;
* Today, the time has come to better leverage investment from the AIIB, the New Development Bank and the European Bank of Investment to support cross-border tourism projects like smart hospitality services, local food production, and waste management in protected seascapes.
· Second, we need cultural and environmental initiatives promoting shared development between people and civilizations: mountain tourism is above all a way of educating people about the permanent values of humanity:
* First, mountain is a place of collective heritage. We need to bet on culture to attract visitors, looking for new knowledge and experiences;
* Second, the quality of air. We remain a health benefit provided we make progress in sharing good practices and setting common standards to protect the mountainous environment as a universal common group;
* Third, mountain provides wonderful landscape for sports. The creations of mountainous sports competitions could help discover the nature from a very new perspective. For instance, with ice sports, like hang gliding;
* Fourth, mountain is also a place where you can refocus on fundamental values like family: In France, the leading ski result player COMPAGNIE DES ALPES has always put family at the heart of its business model, especially by linking sports and with amusement parks in France like the Parc Asterix and recently in Austria with the 100% acquisition of the brand FAMILYPARK.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Tourism is all about adventure, providing people with physical and mental experiences that combine leisure, well-being and personal development.
It is my pride, as Chairman of the IMTA, to witness the great progress we made to support tourism globally. Because tourism is not only about business, it's about human culture, International peace, and of course collective harmony.
Thank you very much.