Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang on Wednesday called on countries to help unleash the potential in tourism growth in developing countries.
Wang made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 22nd session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan and the economic center of western China.
Wang said China will continue to support tourism development in developing countries while urging rich nations to help developing countries reach balanced development in global tourism.
The Chinese vice premier also said China is ready to align the Belt and Road Initiative with related plans in developing countries to help promote local tourism, which he said has been a bottleneck to their tourism development. The China-proposed Initiative aims to build infrastructure and trade networks along ancient trade routes in a bid to spur economic growth in participating countries.
More than 1,000 delegates, including tourism ministers from more than 130 countries attended the opening ceremony. Of the tourism ministers, 36 are from Africa. "Africa is an increasingly important force in the global tourism market. The continent is rich in cultural resources," Abdoulaya Ndiaye, technique counselor to Senegalese tourism minister, told Xinhua.
In a congratulatory message read by Wang at the opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping wished the biennial UNWTO event a great success, and stressed that tourism is an "important channel" for mutual learning and cultural exchanges between countries as well as an "important industry" for promoting growth, creating jobs and improving people's livelihoods.
UNWTO chief Taleb Rifai said at the opening ceremony that countries should use tourism as an opportunity to address global challenges in order to enable the sector to contribute more to global growth and peace.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed in a congratulatory message the hope that the tourism conference, held during the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, will "chart the sector's course in helping to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."
On Wednesday, tourism ministers also discussed issues related to sustainable development and the role of tourism at an open-door session. In addition, ministers from countries along the Belt and Road met and discussed enhancing cooperation in tourism development.
UNWTO has currently more than 150 members. The Madrid-based organization will also produce its next secretary general at the global tourism gathering that will last through Sept. 16. The last session of UNWTO general assembly was held in Medellin, Colombia.