World Tourism Cities Federation
Tourism cities get together at Beijing Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit
Cities intensely vie with each other for tourists, but the ferocious competition paused for a day at the Beijing Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit on Saturday as members of the newly founded World Tourism Cities Federation shared their experiences and best practices. Together, they raised the bar for the game even higher.
Ding Xiangyang, deputy-mayor of Beijing, told his counterparts that a tourism city can't be truly top class until it has its signature brand. He said Beijing is in the process of developing its own brand to match other cities with clear local characteristics.
"Like leather from Italy and diamonds from South Africa, Beijing should have its own branded product," Ding said.
Dublin Mayor Naoise O Muiri echoed the opinion and said the Irish city owns some of its appeal to Guinness, the renowned brand of beer.
But the mayor said iconic landmarks are an equal, if not more important, drawing card and Beijing is well equipped on that front.
"Paris has the Eiffel Tower and London the Big Ben. Just like them, Beijing has its own attractions." He said cities should be playing up their unique cityscapes.
Members also suggested more festivals and other engaging activities to attract visitors.
Miklos Csomos, deputy-mayor for Educational and Cultural Affairs of Budapest, said the city's Island Festival helps bring 100,000 visitors to the historic city each year. Now, it's preparing for a spring festival next year.
"Festivals are definitely most important in drawing tourists," he said.
Nils Usakovs, mayor of Riga, capital city of Latvia, cautioned that tourist activities should cater to locals as well. "When the citizens are happy, the tourists will be happy too," he said at the summit.
O Muiri said Dublin's St Patrick's Parade succeeds because it brings together locals and tourists. There, elated citizens have a way to show hospitality to the guests. "Such festivals are beneficial to both parties," he told China Daily.
Not every practice can be duplicated on foreign ground though, he noted.
Kang Gye-Doo, vice-mayor for Economic Affairs of Gwangju Metropolitan City, South Korea, said his city has learned not to copy Paris and Rome by rote.
"Each city has its own strength, he said. "European cities are appealing for their history. It's something we don't have. But we're making our own history."
Kang said the city now finds its strength in technology and plans to hold "an Olympic Games for robots".
Kang said joining in the WTCF and the summit reinforced his understanding of the broad-based industry. "Tourism is not only about sightseeing. It merges economics, politics, technology and more. It's about everything," he said.