Guilin has long been renowned for its unique landscape and is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. At the invitation of the Guilin Municipal Government, on 29 August, the British Consulate-General Guangzhou hosted a seminar on Ecotourism at the 5th China Guilin International Tourism Expo. The aim of the event was to share examples of the UK’s experience in ecotourism to help inform our audience and increase their understanding of how to take forward ecotourism in a sustainable way. The keynote presentation was given by Professor David Newsome, an internationally recognised expert on the subject who has advised governments around the world on aspects of ecotourism.
More than 150 guests attended the seminar, including Chinese government policy makers, leading tourism industry representatives and influential local and national media, including: Xinhua News Agency, China News Service, Guilin Daily, Guilin Evening News and Guilin TV.
Opening the Seminar, Andrew Massey, British Deputy Consul-General said:
Tourism makes a major contribution to the Guilin economy. We are keen to work with the authorities to help them build on this success. Today we’re here to share our experience so that others can learn lessons from the work that we have done in the area of ‘Ecotourism’, both where it has gone well and where we have made mistakes.
As part of his presentation Prof. Newsome talked about how to define “ecotourism”, and gave examples of “nature tourism” in the UK. He also shared his experience on the difficulties of managing popular but environmentally sensitive areas. As Prof. Newsome pointed out, as one develops ecotourism it is important to recognise how it will affect the landscape. The trick is to avoid ultimately destroying the very feature that tourists are paying to see or experience.
The seminar provoked a lively discussion amongst both government officials and representatives of industry. Summing up after the seminar, Professor Newsome said:
There have been some excellent questions from the audience , such as how China could develop its tourism in a more sustainable way while facing the challenges from overcrowded tourism sites and overdevelopment of tourism products.
He went on to suggest that the authorities might need to think about restricting visitor numbers to scenic spots at certain times of the year, and implement regulation to protect nature-based tourism sites, minimising the impact on the environment.
The British Consulate-general in Guangzhou is now looking to build on the success of the event and work more closely with the authorities in Guilin in this and related issues, such as; sustainable urban planning, low carbon policy, and green business engagement.
Away from the seminar in the main exhibition hall, the Consulate also hosted a “Green is GREAT” branded booth to introduce visitors to the UK. Overall, an estimated 150,000 people visited the three-day Expo, with many of them visiting the UK Stand. While media reports from the seminar reached an audience of 50 million in China.