Chinese tourism key to unlocking growth potential of Pacific nations: World Bank

Updated 2017-09-05 17:00:43 Xinhua

Often overlooked in terms of the broader world view, the nations of the South Pacific are primed with tremendous growth opportunities over the next few decades, with tourism from China pegged as one of the most promising aspects of their development.

In a new report set to be released on Thursday by the World Bank entitled Pacific Possible, and obtained early by Xinhua, coinciding with the Pacific Islands Forum underway this week in Apia, the capital of Samoa, a number of key ways in which the enormous potential of these fledgling nations may be realised over the next 25 years is outlined, with increased tourism from China's burgeoning middle class high atop that list.

One of the key contributors to the report, economist at the World Bank Kim Edwards told Xinhua recently that welcoming these tourists from China with open arms will be vital for the future of the economic success of the Pacific Island nations.

"I think in most cases there is definitely appetite for more tourists, and China obviously has a very significant and growing middle class, which can provide very important market for the tourism sectors in these countries," Edwards said.

"The Pacific countries need to actually take advantage of this market more, and really take full advantage of the opportunities that the Chinese market provides. The region is open and ready for more and more Chinese tourists."

The emphasis on China's middle class is paramount, according to the World Bank report, which said that it is expected to increase from the 54 million people who were classified as middle class in 2005, to over 1 billion by the year 2030, with this unprecedented growth bringing many fruitful pathways to increased tourism in the Pacific.

Taking advantage of these opportunities is inherently difficult for many of these nations, because aside from Papua New Guinea with a population of 8.05 million people as of 2016, none of the other 11 major nations in the region have a population of over 1 million, with Fiji, the second largest country, coming in at roughly 898,000 citizens as of 2016, which makes securing finance for capital investment harder in the region.

In order to source the investment required to fully capture the Chinese tourism market and the economic potential that brings, Edwards said that these Pacific nations must play their part in ensuring that the conditions are conducive to those seeking to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with the region.

"I think in large part it's making sure that the opportunities are viable in realistic and making that case to private sector investors. So, obviously the development of a high end resorts as part of a specific strategy for example, will very much depend on foreign investment coming in to set up these hotels and resorts," Edwards said.

"That, in turn, depends on measures to really improve the investment and business environment in some of these countries. The question is whether the business environment and the environment for investment can improve commensurately to take advantage of those opportunities."

The positive impact of the recent waves of Chinese tourism has been felt in countries such as Vanuatu, with many in the tourism sector there rapidly adapting to and welcoming, more Chinese visitors to their country.

One such operator, Mike Thompson of Vanuatu Jungle Zipline, told Xinhua recently that Chinese tourism to Vanuatu has been a relatively new trend, but one which is rapidly expanding, much to the benefit of the country as a whole.

"We've had our first Chinese cruise ship a couple of months back and it's certainly growing, so Chinese investment in Vanuatu has been growing quite significantly," Thompson said.

"We've seen people, and companies from China buying up large tourism and development sites, and basically looking towards the future, so we expect significant growth."

In order to better cater to people from China who visit, Thompson said he has taken many steps to further enhance the person-to-person communication, and cooperation between his company and others from China, as well as adapting his services to better cater to the tourists who visit his operation.

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