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Hospitality and Tourism Educators Gain Resources to Enhance Education Across China

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Hospitality educators from 162 vocational schools and universities in 28 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions gathered at the Chongqing Marriott Hotel for the 5th Annual China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI) Teaching Conference

Hospitality educators from 162 vocational schools and universities in 28 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions gathered at the Chongqing Marriott Hotel for the 5th Annual China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI) Teaching Conference. The four-day conference, held July 10-13, was themed Looking Through a New Lens: Inspiring the Next Generation of Hospitality Innovators.

A visionary project of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, CHEI offers a portfolio of programs to help educators prepare youth in China for hospitality and tourism careers. These programs include faculty internships in hotels, field trips to hospitality venues, guest lectures on campus, hospitality English curriculum, teaching resources, conferences, regional forums and more.

Many teachers across China have not had exposure to real-world hospitality operations or opportunities to network with industry professionals, academic experts, or even peers teaching in similar programs at other schools. The CHEI Teaching Conference brings industry and academia together offering workshops and opportunities to network, experience hotel operations first-hand, and gain knowledge and resources to incorporate into classrooms to better prepare students for career success.

“The foundation of CHEI’s success is its unique partnership between academia, industry and philanthropy,” said Anne Gunsteens, executive director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. “This collaboration has enabled us to develop unique China-centric programs and resources that meet the specific needs of academia and industry, and that can be shared with the broad community of educators. CHEI launched 5 years ago with only 9 partner schools. Today, CHEI actively works with 98 vocational schools and universities in 23 provinces and is having an impact on 220,000 students.”

This is the first year the conference was held in southwest China. Chongqing is the largest of China’s four municipalities and is the world’s fastest growing tourism city, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Conference attendees included school presidents and government officials. Craig S. Smith, Marriott International’s president and managing director of Asia Pacific, and Chairman Xiao, the host hotel’s owner, attended the closing gala celebration.

“We are honored to welcome attendees to this year’s CHEI Teaching Conference,” said Regan Taikitsadaporn, chief human resources officer at Marriott International, Asia Pacific. “As CHEI’s initial and leading industry advisor, Marriott is committed to continuing to help enhance the collaboration between industry and academia, and offer real-world experiences to Chinese educators to help them prepare students for rewarding hospitality and tourism careers.”

“This conference highlights the perfect convergence between growing industry needs and teaching methodologies, and aims to provide the best resources and training to front-line teachers,” said Joy Dong, CHEI project director. “Since its launch, CHEI has been committed to working with school administrators to help develop high-quality teachers and students.”

On the first day of the conference, global academic experts and hospitality industry leaders helped kick off the final round of the groundbreaking national student competition, The CHEI Challenge: Unlocking Career Success. “We are excited about our newest program, The CHEI Challenge student competition,” said Dong, “which has opened a new chapter for soft skills’ development (e.g., critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration) and created a tremendous impact on the students’ career competency, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Quotes from conference attendees:

– “In January 2017, China launched the Foreign NGO Management Law that regulates how foreign non-government organizations conduct activities in China,” said Wang Yuan Hao, president, Anhui Zhong-Ao Institute of Technology. “Our institute has collaborated with the Marriott Foundation to file the temporary record of CHEI activities with the Anhui Public Security Bureau in Hefei. The activities are aligned with the government rules and regulations for academia in China. Our school was one of the first beneficiaries of CHEI programs. As a result, the quality of our hospitality and tourism graduates has improved, with increased teaching satisfaction and industry retention, according to recent MyCOS survey data.”

– “The collaboration between schools and industry is the only solution for vocational education in China,” said Zhang Yong Jun, vice president, Maanshan Teacher’s College. “CHEI has established the bridge for communication between schools and industry, which is so meaningful because they listen and stay current with what the schools need.”

– “The student competition held at the conference this year encourages more students in the hospitality and tourism major to grow and develop,” said Qu Li Xin, vice president, Wuxi City College of Vocational Technology. “The competition has well-designed steps at various levels. The CHEI team, mentors and industry professionals really care about the students and teachers. It touched everyone’s heart and soul. The competition connected industry and academia to produce better students who gained personal attributes, high loyalty to the industry, and an international mindset.”

– “CHEI provides hands-on work experiences and shares enhanced teaching methodologies for front-line teachers,” said Kate Liu, CHEI teaching consultant and teacher, Shandong College of Tourism & Hospitality. “The teaching-learning resources developed by CHEI have changed my way of classroom teaching. I now have great faith in my students’ ability to work in the industry. The CHEI vision has changed our work attitudes and keeps us moving forward every day.”

Moving forward, CHEI will further localize programs in China and grow its cadre of CHEI teaching consultants to expand its capacity to meet the demands for CHEI programs. New programs being launched this year will focus on increased technology in the classrooms and community learning experiences that bring classrooms in China and the US together virtually.

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Greener tourism: Greater collaboration needed to tackle rising emissions

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is calling for enhanced cooperation between the transport and tourism sectors to combat climate change.

On the sidelines of the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, the agency on Wednesday released on Wednesday the Transport Related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector report, which estimates that by 2030, transport-related emissions from tourism will comprise 5.3 per cent of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

“This comprehensive study analyses the environmental impact of the different modes of transport within the tourism sector”, UNWTO Executive Director Manuel Butler said at the launch. 

UNWTO said transport-related emissions remain a major challenge: “While tourism is mentioned in many Nationally Determined Contributions as a big concern, not enough has yet been done”, said Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Against the backdrop of a growing number of sightseers both at home and abroad, the data factors in the predicted growth in global emissions to 2030 and is set against the “current ambition” for the decarbonization of transport.

“Industry must do more, but Governments must align their policies, so that at the international level we can collectively work to increase ambition”, Mr. Sarmad added. “The One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme is a vital ongoing mechanism to promote sustainable tourism around the world.”

High ambition scenario

Transport-related CO2 emissions remain a major challenge and require tourism sectors to work closely with transport sectors worldwide in order to support its commitment to accelerate decarbonization. 

In addition, the tourism industry must determine its own high ambition scenario, complementing the efforts of the transport sector, such as by significantly decoupling growth from emissions, allowing expansion within the international climate targets.

“It is now for the tourism sector, especially tourism policy makers, to use data effectively and ensure the sector plays a leading role in addressing the climate emergency”, concluded the UNWTO chief.

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How to Develop Tourism in Tajikistan?

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An interview with Andrea Dall’Olio, Lead Financial Sector Economist at the World Bank, about Tajikistan’s tourism potential and what the country can do to respond to increasing international tourist demand.

What kind of tourist comes to Tajikistan? And what makes Tajikistan an attractive destination for tourists?

Tajikistan has both natural beauty and cultural richness, which appeals to tourists from all around the world. In addition, the country is relatively unexplored, and therefore considered “exotic”. This is a big selling point for today’s adventure tourists who want to explore places where few other people have been to.

Tajikistan attracts two kinds of adventure tourists. The first group includes independent tourists who travel the country without reliance on tour operators. This usually includes backpackers and bikers, who are attracted by the Pamir Highway, the Fann Mountains and most importantly, the country’s warm and hospitable people.

The second group includes tourists who visit the country through tour operators as part of Tajikistan-only or multi-country packages. They come to see the unique cultural sites along the Silk Road, such as Sarazm (a UNESCO site), the Hissor Fortress, the Ajina Teppa excavation site, the Khulbuk Castle, the Yamchun Fortress, and others.

Tajikistan is generally known as a safe destination, despite its proximity to Afghanistan. This was confirmed by a 2018 World Bank Group survey of tour operators: over 50% of international and local respondents confirmed they are generally satisfied with the country’s security situation.

Tourism development depends on many factors – from liberalization of the aviation sector, development of basic infrastructure, security issues, availability of information online, etc. Is there a roadmap on tourism development in Tajikistan? What are the priority issues to be addressed and what should the areas of focus be?

Tourism in Tajikistan is recognized as an important contributor to job creation and economic growth, so the Government of Tajikistan has put in place a number of initiatives to make the country more attractive for visitors. However, Tajikistan can do a lot more to attract more tourism spending.

The 2018 World Bank Group survey of tour operators pointed out several critical areas which should be looked at. For example, improving air travel connectivity to Tajikistan, as well as in-country transport are very important. Launching a Dushanbe-Khorog flight could be quite transformational. Tanzania, for example, significantly improved its tourism sector by allowing small independent airlines to fly small planes (like the Cessna Caravan) within the country.

Another area is the quality of accommodation and facilities: access to water and sanitation in guesthouses, homestays and tourism sites needs significant improvements. These improvements do not require large investments, but are critical for the comfort of visitors.

The preservation and rehabilitation of tourism sites, enhanced tourism services, simplification of the regulatory environment in the tourism sector, upgrading of skills, better regional connectivity in Central Asia, improved food services, and stronger marketing and promotion were also highlighted by tour operators as steps that could help Tajikistan reach its full development potential.

On average, a visitor in Tajikistan spends between $800 and $1,400 for a 6-12 day stay, excluding airfare, which is significantly below the global average. According to UNWTO, adventure tourists worldwide spend an average of $3,000 on an 8 day-trip.

Google maps, Trip Advisor, Air B&B, Uber – these are among the most used services by tourists and visitors throughout the world. Unfortunately, they are either not developed at all or poorly developed in Tajikistan. Why? What can we do to make these services available in Tajikistan, and therefore make it easier for visitors?

These platforms have changed the way people travel around the world. Some of them have made an inroad in Tajikistan. For example, right now, you can use AirBnB to book accommodation in Dushanbe. Of course, the inventory is still very small. In order to utilize these platforms on a wider scale in the country, some basic conditions need to exist.

For example, good internet connectivity is required to ensure a constant online presence and facilitate instant communication with guests. Language skills are also important, in order to be able to communicate with tourists directly. In addition, adequate financial infrastructure needs to be in place to allow guests to pay and reserve their accommodation online.

However, such challenges do not need to stop the growth of these services in the country. For example, to respond to the internet and language challenges, an interim approach could include a group of homestay owners who would come together and channel their communication and room reservations through one person or entity within the community, someone who has a good internet connection and English language skills.

The World Bank, through the Rural Economy Development Project, is experimenting with some of these new approaches. And, if successful, they could be replicated in other parts of the country.

Of course, modern approaches also bring about new challenges which would need to be looked at closely and managed. For example, ensuring a level playing field between different types of accommodation service providers and requiring compliance with safety and security standards are important for growth of the tourism sector.

Why do you think that, despite the efforts of the government to attract tourists and promote this sector, only about a million tourists visited Tajikistan in 2018? What policy measures should be prioritized to address this issue?

Tajikistan has a lot of potential to develop as a tourism destination. The focus, however, should not be on the number of tourists, but on the revenue that tourists can bring to the country. Many countries have adopted a “low volume-high margin” strategy to attract tourists, in order to preserve their natural and cultural assets. Ideally, Tajikistan would attract more high-spending adventure tourists who could venture into local communities, eat local food, and engage in the natural and cultural activities that the country has to offer.

Attracting a high volume of low-spending tourists could lead to mass tourism, which in turn could put the country’s natural and cultural assets at risk. This is the reason why many places, such as Machu Picchu in Peru, have started limiting access for visitors to some cultural and historic sites.

What potential has the tourism sector for Tajikistan’s economy? For example, how many jobs can it create, and how much can it contribute to GDP?

Half of the global tourism workforce is under the age of 25. Given that almost 70 percent of Tajikistan’s population is under 30, tourism can be a good source of employment for the country’s growing population. The Rural Economy Development Project aims to increase the income of the local population through investment in the tourism and agri-business sectors in Khatlon region and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. Both regions border Afghanistan and opportunities for income generation are limited.

The project will support tourism development in three ways: first, it will support the preservation, rehabilitation and commercialization of a number of key historical and cultural sites. In addition, through small grants, the project will support communities in upgrading local tourism infrastructure such as cultural centers and museums, and in organizing festivals and other events to attract tourists.

Second, the project will support small businesses in tourism, such as homestays, restaurants, tour operators, artists and artisans, and others to improve the quality of their facilities, services and products, and to make them more attractive to visitors. For example, homestay owners will be able to use project funds to make improvements to their sanitation facilities.

Finally, the project will support the government’s efforts to promote Tajikistan globally and to invest in improving skills in the tourism sector.

The Rural Economy Development Project is financed through a $30 million grant from the Risk Mitigation Regime program, which works to mitigate risks of conflict and fragility in a few countries. In Tajikistan, the program focuses on creating jobs, generating income and reducing unemployment, in particular for women, youth and returning migrants who are the most vulnerable groups in Khatlon region and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. Enabling these regions to attract more tourism spending will translate into more income and employment for people. This is what we are trying to achieve by promoting community-based tourism.

Which country’s experience is also applicable for Tajikistan, in terms of tourism promotion and development?

There are many countries and destinations that could serve as good examples for Tajikistan. For example, Georgia has a flourishing tourism sector today. Of course, it also faces challenges, such as over-tourism in some parts of the country. Both the positive and negative experiences of a country like Georgia could be of interest to Tajikistan. Other countries, like Jordan, have significant cultural assets and face somewhat similar challenges of security. However, they have managed to promote their tourism despite the challenges.

Tajikistan could also learn from highly developed destinations, such as Switzerland or Italy, which also have significant natural and cultural assets, about how their tourism industry is organized, how cultural sites are managed and supervised, and how the public and private sectors complement each other.

What are the roles and responsibilities of the government and the private sector?

The government and the private sector have very distinct but complementary responsibilities. The government should focus on “public goods” – which includes putting in place the appropriate policies and regulations for the tourism sector, such as the e-visa, and adequate aviation policies. Also, it should focus on investing in and preserving the country’s cultural and natural assets, such as national parks, fortresses, and historical and archeological sites. Also, the government could help with marketing and promoting Tajikistan as a destination abroad.

The private sector, on the other hand, should focus on providing high quality products and services for visitors, such as accommodation, food, travel services, souvenirs, etc. And, there are areas in which the government and the private sector could work together with civil society. For example, the maintenance of a historical site could be delegated by the government to a civil society organization. So, the government and the private sector have to work together in close partnership for the tourism sector to flourish.

Would you come as a tourist to Tajikistan, and if so, why?

I have to admit that my views are “positively biased”. Having lived in Tajikistan and travelled extensively in the country, I have a passion for its beautiful landscape, nature, history and culture. I have travelled the Pamir Highway a number of times and have been fortunate to visit sites such as Takhti Sangin, Karon Castle, Yamchun Fortress and many other beautiful and undiscovered sites in Tajikistan. I have stayed in local homestays and have enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the local people. I would visit Tajikistan at every opportunity and would recommend the experience to anyone who enjoys adventure, nature and culture.

World Bank Originally published in Asia Plus (in Russian) on November 15, 2019.

Andrea Dall’Olio, based in Dushanbe, leads the World Bank’s Rural Economy Development Project, which aims to develop the tourism and agribusiness sectors in Tajikistan as a means to increase income earning opportunities for the local population in Khatlon region and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast.

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WTO Launches Its First Shopping Tourism Pilot Project in León, Mexico

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has joined with the Municipality of León (Guanajuato, Mexico) to present the first UNWTO project on Shopping Tourism, with the aim of boosting the local economy, creating jobs and driving sustainable and inclusive development.

The pilot project is the result of more than a year’s collaboration between the United Nations specialized agency and the Municipality of León, carried out with support from the Ministry of Tourism of the State of Guanajuato. The initiative aims to maximize the benefits of tourist activity in the city of León and promote it as a shopping destination, both within Mexico and around the world. The project focuses on several key areas, namely: attracting visitors, the creation of tourism products, the efficient use of tourism attractions and the quality of infrastructure. Alongside these, attention is also given to community involvement in tourism as well as local socio-economic wellbeing and the promotion of employment.

Around 65 interviews were conducted with actors from the tourism, commerce and design sectors, as well as with public sector and government representatives. Two participatory workshops were then conducted to identify, create and validate proposed initiatives. As a result a total of 21 initiatives were identified, out of which 10 were selected based on different criteria, such as their contribution to the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), their impact and the timeline.

Initiatives include the development of tourism products and services such as the León Shopping Card as well as urban interventions such as the León Design districts, which involves the conversion of emblematic areas and the installation of designer ateliers, boutiques or the House of Innovation and Trends, a unique public interactive space, open to all, where local designers can interact with visitors and come up with the design trends of the future Gloria Cano de la Fuente, director general of Hospitality and Tourism of León said “Being a leading destination requires us to create a new culture of visitor service, based on the creation of innovative and value-added experiences, this is how this Shopping tourism prototype will define us” León, the capital of footwear and leather, was the selected destination because 27% of its visitors come to the city to shop, mainly for leather. With this project and the support of the UNWTO, León aims to position itself as a destination for value-added shopping tourism through innovative experiences in shopping tourism. At the same time, it aims to promote the integration of companies and individuals from different areas in the value chain of tourism and commerce in León and its surroundings (artisans, agriculture, leather, footwear, design, automotive, among others), while stimulating the creation of employment and new opportunities based on the promotion of high value-added shopping tourism and local development.

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