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Experts call for sustainable tourism development at heritage sites

source:people's daily release date:2008/04/09 hits:219

Officials and experts worldwide called for sustainable tourism development at world heritage sites amid a global booming of the industry in recent years.

Governments of many nations have been increasingly aware tourism can bring enormous opportunities for employment, economic and social development, World Tourism Organization deputy secretary-general Taleb Rifai said at a tourism management conference held Monday in Huangshan City, east China's Anhui Province.

The increasing awareness has led to an improvement in infrastructure facilities in recent years in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Central and South America.

But booming tourism also brings pressure to heritage sites of all types, he added.

China has 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which include the Great Wall and Mount Huangshan. They are the most important tourism resources for the nation. Across the world, there are 851 such sites.

The transnational tourist arrivals hit 900 million last year, a6.2 percent increase compared with 2006.

The number of international tourist arrivals would continue to rise but the growth rate might slow down because of global economic uncertainties and oil price rises, according to Rifai. He expected the average annual growth to be around 4.1 percent in the long term.

For the future, the world heritage sites should be well managed and protected. Meanwhile, these places should also be available to people for education and entertainment, the WTO official said.

"China's tourism has undergone rapid development over the past three decades since its reform and opening up," said Shao Qiwei, China's National Tourism Administration director.

The number of overseas tourist arrivals reached 54 million in China last year, 71 times that of 1978, when the country opened its door wider to the outside world. The country's foreign exchange revenue from tourism hit 41.9 billion U.S. dollars, 160 times that of 1978, Shao said.

China's outbound tourists reached 40 million last year, ranking first in Asia.

Currently, as the fourth largest tourist destination in the world, China is expected to become the number one destination for overseas tourists with the number to hit 100 million by 2015.

"The tourism industry will hold a scientific outlook on the protection and development of the country's world heritage," Shao said.

The four-day conference on sustainable tourism management at heritage sites attracted more than 200 experts and scholars worldwide.

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