Zhengzhou, September 4, 2023 – The 2023 International Mayor’s Forum on Tourism in China (Zhengzhou) kicked off at the Zhengzhou International Convention Center. Hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the PRC and the People’s Government of Henan Province, the forum was supported by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), World Tourism Alliance (WTA), World Travel & Tourism Council(WTTC), and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). The opening ceremony was announced by WANG Kai, Governor of Henan Province, DU Jiang, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and Hisham Amna, Minister of Local Development of Egypt. Present at the ceremony were ZHANG Xu, Chair of WTA, ZHU Shanzhong, Ambassador of UNWTO, WANG Zhanying, Standing Committee Member of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee and Head of the Publicity Department, and AN Wei, Standing Committee Member of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee and Secretary of the Zhengzhou Municipal Party Committee. The opening ceremony was presided over by ZHANG Min, Vice Governor of People’s Government of Henan Province.
In the evening, the “World Tourism Alliance · Urban Tourism Dialogue” was successfully held in the theater Unique Henan · Land of Drama. Organized under the theme “Creative Development and Brand Building of Tourism Cities”, the dialogue was co-hosted by the World Tourism Alliance, the Culture and Tourism Department of Henan Province, and the People’s Government of Zhengzhou City. The dialogue, set under the dome of stars with curtains around, attracted more than 200 participants, including domestic and international experts, WTA members, and government and enterprise representatives. Prominent attendees included ZHANG Xu, Chair of WTA; ZHANG Min, Vice Governor of People’s Government of Henan Province; ZHU Shanzhong, Ambassador and Former Executive Director of the UNWTO; LIU Shijun, Vice Chair & Secretary-General of WTA; XU Peng, Vice Chair of WTA; Soon-Hwa WONG, Immediate Past Chair and Executive Board Member of PATA; YU Debin, Deputy Secretary of Party Committee and Deputy Director-General of the Former Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, Director of the Games Services Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, Director of the Pandemic Prevention and Control Office of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games; and MA Zhifeng, Vice Mayor of Zhengzhou Municipal People’s Government.
In her opening speech, Vice Governor ZHANG Min emphasized that, as a cradle of Chinese civilization and a leader in various sectors such as population, economy, agriculture, and culture, Henan province has stepped up efforts on tourism development. They have accelerated the integration of culture and tourism, working under the strategy of “Walking in Henan, Understanding China” to establish Henan as a center for the innovative inheritance of Chinese culture and a world-renowned cultural tourism destination. “The WTA Urban Tourism Dialogue serves as a high-quality platform for cities worldwide to exchange experiences and collaborate in tourism. It will also significantly propel Henan’s tourism industry”, ZHANG added.
In his keynote speech, Mr. ZHANG Xu emphasized that cities are vital destinations in the booming landscape of tourism. He outlined how tourism has gradually become a lifestyle choice, signifying an innovative shift in the modernization of tourism cities. “As an epicenter of Central Plain culture, Henan Province has been a leader in the innovative development of cultural tourism industries in China. We envision future tourism cities to be thriving hubs of culture, amusement, and livability” said ZHANG. He highlighted that WTA would continue to leverage its platform for both international and domestic collaborations to advance the innovative development of tourism cities.
Mr. ZHU Shanzhong, in his lecture, discussed the resilient rebound of the global tourism industry. With the continuous growth of the Chinese economy, domestic and outbound tourism have surged, but this has not come without challenges. ZHU explained that to become “a world-renowned tourism destination integrating culture and tourism”, cities should consider both resident and visitor needs, reshape brand influence by improving products and services, and utilize technological innovation through talent cultivation and introduction. “Telling China’s story to the world is vital to promote inbound tourism” ZHU added. In addition, ZHU elaborated on the standards and requirements for creating world-class tourist destinations from various angles including the attractiveness of urban tourism, international convenience, and industry scale.
Director of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, SONG Rui, offered a keynote titled “Innovative Development of Tourism Cities.” Starting from the advent of modern tourism, she elaborated on the various challenges that cities face in becoming well-known tourist destinations. She highlighted seven key areas—experiential, balanced, IP-driven, community-oriented, digital, green, and smart developments—that serve as the primary engines for innovative urban development. SONG used Beijing, Shanghai, and Luoyang as case studies to analyze new-age tourism marketing strategies like live-streaming, domestic comics, short videos, and architectural design.
Mr. YU Debin asserted that planning for large-scale events or competitions requires a comprehensive and holistic approach. He emphasized that factors ranging from transportation and security to epidemic prevention and even the city’s demographics and resources decide the scale and impact of an event hosted by a city. Drawing from his firsthand experience with the preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics, YU mentioned that a successful event offers more than just economic benefits; it also has a lasting impact on the city’s brand.
LU Shihua, Deputy Chief Planner of the China City Development Academy and a member of the Chief Planner Committee of the China Society for Urban Studies, analyzed the relationship between the “Night Economy and Cities” and urban development from the perspective of urban planning. He emphasized that the “Night Economy” is a fresh engine for consumer stimulation and a new frontier for economic growth. The harmonious integration between the “Night Economy” and the urban structure is essential for creating vibrant public spaces for nightlife.
[Left: LIU Shijun, Vice Chair & Secretary-General of the World Tourism Alliance (WTA); Right: Soon-Hwa WONG, Immediate Past Chair and Executive Board Member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)]
During the Urban Tourism Dialogue, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between WTA and PATA.
The Panel was chaired by WU Ruoshan, President of the New Era Cultural Tourism Research Institute. Sally YOUNG, Executive Advisor of CNN International Commercial; Kate CHANG, China Regional Director of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board; GE Lei, Vice President of CYTS Research Institute; Franka GULIN, Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board Shanghai Representative Office; and GENG Yingqiang, Chairman of Zhengzhou Culture Tourism and Sports Group Co., Ltd., delved into “Sharing Experiences of International Tourism Cities”, enriching the discourse on innovative reforms in urban tourism.
ZHANG Xu, Chair of WTA, participated in a collective meeting with international organizations during the Mayor’s Forum. He expressed keen interest in future collaborations with Henan Province and emphasized the WTA’s commitment to contribute to sustainable urban tourism on a global scale.
The Urban Tourism Dialogue serves as an essential part of the WTA’s “Dialogue” series, aiming to create a platform for communication among renowned global tourism cities. Its mission is to promote coordinated cooperation in urban tourism at a non-governmental level, aiding in the high-quality development of city tourism worldwide.