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2023 WTA· Urban Tourism Dialogue: A Synopsis for Creative Development and Brand Building of Tourism Cities


Cloudy skies herald the end of summer, while rustling leaves announce autumn’s arrival. As autumn sets in, leaders from the tourism industry across the world gather in the heartland of China, engaging in a unique dialogue on urban tourism development.

Venue of the Urban Tourism Dialogue

Embracing Innovation to Boost Developmental Vitality

The dialogue, themed “Creative Development and Brand Building of Tourism Cities”, took the form of an evening outdoor event set against a starlit sky and housed within a theater with curtains around. This is a first-of-its-kind attempt by the World Tourism Alliance (WTA) and symbolizes its optimistic vision for innovative developments in tourism. Henan, a beacon of Central Plains culture in China, has been at the forefront of cultural and tourism industry innovations nationwide. New products and ventures like the dance show titled “Night Banquet in Palace of Tang Dynasty” and cultural relic blind boxes continually impress and push the boundaries of the industry. The decision to hold the Urban Tourism Dialogue in a city bursting with creativity enriches the event’s central implications, sparking a zest and passion for innovation among participants.

Brainstorming to Envision the Future of Tourism Cities

As mass tourism and urban leisure travel become more prevalent, constructing habitable and visit-worthy cities that merge scenic spots with urban living, fostering a shared environment for locals and tourists, and promoting diverse consumer experiences has become the point for enhancing city competitiveness and high-quality tourism development.

ZHU Shanzhong, the Ambassador of the United Nations World Tourism Organization

Integrating culture and tourism has become a consensus for the development of international tourism destinations. ZHU Shanzhong, the Ambassador of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, noted that the core of sustainable and inclusive growth in urban tourism lies in robust cultural and tourism planning aligned with the region’s medium-term and long-term development goals. He emphasized the importance of integrating technology into tourism to improve both products and services, consequently reshaping brand influence. High-quality development in cultural tourism is reliant on top-tier professionals. Addressing the present challenges of talent attrition and shortage, Zhu recommended greater investment in cultural and tourism education. For cities aspiring to become world-class tourist destinations, he stated the development directions and requirements from four perspectives: unique tourist appeal, international accessibility, strong attractiveness, and the scale of the tourism industry. Establishing a world-class tourist destination is a long and complex endeavor, necessitating collaborative efforts from governments at all levels and society at large.

SONG Rui, Director of the Tourism Research Center,Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Cities serve as hubs where talent, technology, and capital converge, and are the focal points for inventive design in tourism products and groundbreaking developments in the tourism sector. With more than 10,000 cities across the globe and an urbanization rate exceeding 50%, urban tourism dominates the global tourism economy. However, merely replicating other cities’ development characteristics won’t suffice. Cities must delve deep into their unique cultural and product attributes to craft distinctive brand identities, thus catalyzing innovative development. SONG Rui, Director of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, underscored, the key drivers of urban innovation include aspects of experiential, balanced, IP-driven, community-focused, networked, environmentally-friendly, and intelligent development.. As the tourism sector charts its post-pandemic resurgence, the traditional models anchored in large-scale inputs and outputs, with limited efficiency gains, are inadequate for the changing landscape. Aligned with market evolutions, innovations in urban tourism will form the cornerstone propelling the industry’s advancement.

YU Debin, Director of the Games Services Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games

Delineating the impact of large-scale events on the branding of urban tourist destinations the Director of the Games Services Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, YU Debin, shared insights from his experience in organizing the Winter Olympics. While the promotional benefits of large-scale sport events on city imaging are evident, one cannot overlook their role in advancing city infrastructure, elevating resident quality, fostering urban civic virtues, and upgrading urban management standards. The branding of a tourist city should not merely focus on an individual attraction but the city’s comprehensive system, and demands a multi-dimensional approach to upliftment.

LU Shihua, Deputy Chief Planner of the China City Development Academy

The “Night Economy” is an integral component of urban economics, and represents almost 60% of the city’s consumption. LU Shihua, Deputy Chief Planner of the China City Development Academy, highlighted that nightlife, an extension of the night economy offers diverse consumption scenarios. International tourism cities undeniably pulsate with vibrant nightlife. However, a city’s nightlife foundation lies in its residents. There’s an emphasis on creating shared nightlife spaces for both locals and tourists, ensuring affordability and local-centric experiences. In terms of enhancing the night economy, LU gave three guiding principles for governments: avoid excessive commercialization, ensure diversity to prevent a homogenous nightlife experience, and promote well-planned, balanced industry-level development.


Prominent Figures Discuss, Share Leading Development Experiences

In the realm of development and success, learning and drawing from others’ experiences stand paramount. The panel, themed “Sharing Experiences of International Tourism Cities”,saw industry experts sharing their insights. Sally YOUNG views tourism as a bridge between individuals, emphasizing that an international tourism city must resonate with warmth. GENG Yingqiang sees culture as the unique charm of such cities, while GE Lei feels that their allure primarily comes from the visual impact they provide, followed by the experience of local culture, and lastly, the goodwill they extend to visitors. When it comes to building international tourist destinations, Sally YOUNG pointed out five key steps in promoting tourism cities from a media publicity perspective. These include defining the purpose of the promotion, identifying its content, locating the target audience, segmenting the primary target group, and choosing the optimal time for publicity. Using Los Angeles as an example, Kate CHANG showcased the essence of a diverse and inclusive brand image. She emphasized the potency of micro-level perspectives in tourism promotion, allowing audiences to relate on a deeper, more personal level. GE Lei proposed that cities should first clarify their cultural position. Instead of solely relying on historical resources, they should endeavor to offer tourists an immersive experience. Focusing on target demographics, he emphasized the significance of catering to younger potential tourists. Franka GULIN drew from Croatia’s success in international tourism, underlining the importance of localized and immersive experiences in constructing a tourism city. GENG Yingqiang, as a representative of the Zhengzhou government, showcased the city’s journey from being a transportation hub to an international tourist destination from four aspects: the unique urban culture, the origin of Chinese civilization, the reshaping of tourism products, and the publicity of urban culture. He elaborated on the role of cultural positioning, civilization exploration, tourism product reshaping, and cultural publicity in this transformation.

Unique Henan – Land of Dramas

The participants witnessed a visual feast meeting with an arresting dialogue. They openly discussed the prospects of tourism cities, voicing their aspirations and visions. Concluding the session, a quote from Chairman ZHANG Xu summarized everyone’s sentiment: “We envision future tourism cities as hubs of hope and ambition, realms of joy and entertainment, and havens of blissful livability.”