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            China is a world leader in rural tourism, says UNWTO senior official

            Xinhua | Updated: 2023-07-20 16:12
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            China is now a world leader in the field of rural tourism, and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is looking forward to the full recovery of China's inbound and outbound tourism market, said a UNWTO official.

            Sandra Calvao, chief of market intelligence and competitiveness at the UNWTO, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that in recent years, more people are choosing to go to the countryside to embrace nature, taste natural food and enjoy a peaceful holiday with their families, while COVID-19 has accelerated this trend.

            "Tourism has a long history of contributing to rural development, and the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up new opportunities for the development of rural tourism," she said.

            In Calvao's view, people are more willing to head to outdoor spaces for their holidays as they had been stuck at home for so long due to the pandemic.

            The pandemic has also boosted domestic tourism markets, which has led many to turn their attention to the countryside in their own countries. "We think this trend will continue," she said.

            To promote rural tourism, the UNWTO launched the Best Tourism Villages project in 2021 to recognize villages around the world that are committed to developing sustainable tourism. In the past two years, Yucun in Zhejiang, Xidi in Anhui, Dazhai in Guangxi and Jingzhu in Chongqing have been selected from China.

            Calvao emphasized that the development of villages cannot be achieved without the support of national policies, and that China is one of the countries that has placed the greatest emphasis on the role of tourism as a catalyst for rural development and has developed specific policies for this purpose.

            "The development of villages is an example of how China is using tourism to serve those who do not have access to other development opportunities to improve their lives," she said. "We have seen how China is giving support to the countryside in areas such as infrastructure development, which is crucial."

            Calvao also noted that one of China's major strengths in developing rural tourism is that it has a large domestic tourism market, "which means that there will be enough demand in the tourism market all year round to give the country the ability to build infrastructure and services. This will be complemented by the arrival of international tourists."

            In the first quarter of this year, global international tourist arrivals have recovered to 80 percent of their pre-pandemic levels. However, Asia's recovery has been relatively slow, reaching only 54 percent. According to Calvao, the reopening of such an important outbound market as China is of great significance to the recovery of tourism in Asia and globally, and its impact will be felt before the end of this year.

            "China is not only a strong economy, but also a world leader in tourism and the largest consumer of international travels," she said. "China's development is fundamental to the world's tourism industry. I think right now everyone is eagerly awaiting an increase in inbound and outbound tourism from China, and many destinations are eager for the early return of Chinese travelers."

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