Green Growth and Travelism
China's leadership opportunity
(eTN) - Professor Geoffrey Lipman of Victoria U & Oxford Brookes, and President of the International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP), was invited by the Nanjing Municipal Science and Technology Commission to speak at the first Global Nanjing R&D Summit at Jiangning Convention and Exhibition Center of the Jiangning District in Nanjing on June 28, 2012.
R&D is becoming an important factor for various parts of the world to enhance their innovative capacity, reinforce their economic competitiveness, and boost their sustainable economic development. Here, we share Professor Lipman's speech.
To paraphrase your Chinese proverb – “we live in interesting times”
Economies are shifting chaotically – with no end in sight - and the only positive short- to mid-term signs coming from the BRICS is led by China. Spikes in weather, fuel prices, and food availability threaten everyday reality for policymakers, corporations, and consumers. The gap between rich and poor is not reducing far enough, fast enough. Our world seems to be caught in a perfect storm of perpetual manmade and natural crisis - all under the glare of instant global communications, highlighted every minute, as increasingly-linked television, Internet, mobile, and social media rewrite the information landscape.
Fortunately I do not come here to Nanjing to talk about problems. But about opportunities.
Last week at Rio+20, a hundred world leaders re-affirmed “green growth” as the new paradigm strategy to give a long-term framework to deal with these big social, economic, environment, and climate challenges of today and the population-driven resource challenges of tomorrow. They identified “Travel & Tourism” as a potential change agent. At the same time, in the lead up to that summit, G20 leaders noted that our sector could play an important role in job creation.
And that is the opportunity we call “Green Growth and Travelism.”
I come here from Rio where I launched a new book on that very subject, with my friend and mentor Maurice Strong, one of the architects of the global sustainable development movement, and a great friend of China for almost half a century.
It contains ideas from 50 thought leaders – inside and outside our sector – government, industry, and civil society from around the world, on how this most sought after human activity on the planet – to travel for leisure and business - can help to create a cleaner, greener, fairer and better world.
Capitalizing on the scale and scope of the whole “travelism” value chain – consumption of transport, hospitality, infrastructure, and destination services - its GDP, jobs, trade, and investment benefits; its social, economic, and environmental impacts.
China is ideally positioned to bring green growth and travelism together.
In a world where travelism accounts for some 9 percent directly and indirectly of GDP and jobs, doubling every decade or so, China is the emerging superstar.
It is a chilling reality that just 30 years ago when I first visited, there was hardly any domestic leisure travel and virtually no international travel of any kind.
Today, your 2 billion domestic trips a year is twice the world’s international trips. You are already amongst the largest tourism two-way trade markets. And that’s just the start.
Your government has made this sector a strategic pillar of economic development; a key consumption engine in the 12th 5-year plan, and an integral part of China’s superpower engagement, expanding trade policy and globalization. The State Council Information Office and CNTA will increase their collaboration to promote China’s tourist resources and boost the national image abroad. More special destination agreements are coming on stream.
In five years, I can confidently predict that China will be the biggest domestic, biggest inbound, and biggest outbound global travel market. And that impact will double over the next decade or so – increasing your comparative trade advantages.
This is not just about numbers of travelers; it means massive job creation, infrastructure investment, and consumption; the airports, fast roads, and high-speed trains; the buildings in cities and the countryside; the food consumed and the goods sold; the communities engaged.
At precisely the same time, China has also staked out its environmental and clean-tech leadership credentials - particularly for renewable energy.
These issues are also important elements of the current national plan. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has noted that China’s renewable energy investments are second only to Germany’s, and that its impressive roster of new cities can become global beacons of sustainable development.
The sectoral opportunity is to effectively integrate slowly-strengthening travelism norms into the evolving national green growth agenda – particularly the highly-focused, low-carbon dimension.
It’s a huge opportunity because of our catalytic intersects with other mainstream policy sectors like infrastructure, communications, agriculture, manufacturing, and the like. Embryonic green growth and travelism-related policies for planes, cars, hotels, and travel service providers will widen and deepen from national through provincial and local levels. These will merge with measures for smart grids, clean cities, and renewable energy across urban and rural landscapes.
Tourism hotels and resorts will become green growth beacons in themselves. These are an important part of real estate development in China, because they stimulate domestic and foreign investment, attracted by visitor spending cash flow. International building and operational standards, as well as certification programs, will become increasingly merged with national or provincial models.
An additional dimension involves linking this green growth and travelism leadership to China’s emerging global business agenda
There is much talk about the nature of China’s overseas investment as an increasing part of global economic rebalancing – so far what has not been fully appreciated is that with investment in resource industries, in Africa for example, growing people flows follow automatically.
These tourism export flows for the host country can be captured for development purposes – an essential element of the green growth paradigm. Simply put, the sheer number of Chinese travelers offers enormous new possibilities in itself - but couple that with more direct flights with new technology, longer-range aircraft, and the dramatically escalating connection possibilities of the Middle East carriers, and the potential becomes obvious. Taken one step further, this area can be targeted for new local green growth travelism jobs in the construction, hospitality, and services field.
And if the travelism-related resort and infrastructure construction can be directed towards the low-carbon transformation of local communities, it opens up whole new possibilities to creatively target new climate adaptation, aid for trade, and carbon credit funds that can in turn transform conventional development wisdom. The cash flow from a growing number of experience-seeking affluent Chinese visitors can be the game changer.
Finally, in the context of long-term transformation, the real change becomes the challenge of the next generation and beyond.
We now need new bold initiatives to incorporate green growth and travelism in our education systems inside the sector and in society generally - in schools, universities and vocational training - not only here in China but around the world.
Because both of these visions - green growth and travelism - are only relatively recent concepts, it stands to reason that current education systems don’t reflect them. And logically then the same goes for policymaking structures. This is where the real opportunity exists to change mind-sets and to train future generations.
Maurice Strong is now seeking to create a World Environment University in which the new sustainable development paradigm is promoted across all sectors of the socio-economic spectrum. I am leading the component we are calling the Green Growth and Travelism Institute - a virtual network of universities around the world committed to these twin concepts as a key element for human development. We have anchor institutions in place in Victoria University Australia and Oxford Brookes in the UK, with another 8 in the wings. Each will take one discipline and focus attention on its role in the green growth and travelism transformation. We intend to make China a vital node in its implementation.
Last but not least, I want to say word about the destinations in this green growth era.
Because ultimately the environmental impacts of travelism will most significantly occur at destinations, and it is here that sustainable transport, sustainable hospitality, and sustainable lifestyles have their point of focus.
I am involved in a growing number of destination-focused networks to advance green growth and travelism globally and here in China. These include the UNWTO, WTTC, PATA, WEF, and others. I want to mention one here because it has a worldwide scope and a relevance to cities like Nanjing who will want to program travelism into their green growth evolution. That is its main goal.
ICTP, the International Council of Tourism Partners, is a grassroots organization set up by a small group of committed partner,s and its goals are to inform, educate, and encourage green growth and quality. It’s free to join and it’s growing in leaps and bounds with almost a hundred destinations to date.
Our web framework www.greengrowth2050.com is designed to provide information on the components of green growth – in the sector and related areas - and most importantly, to provide digital education and training courses aimed at staff and leaders in the travelism sector.
One day we may figure out a business model, but for the present we are building membership and partnership, and we’ll align with people with similar and better ideas to increase the richness of thought, the logic of paths pursued, and the ultimate buy-in of the people who matter - visited, visitors, and the systems that make this happen - in that order.