NADI, Fiji, May 3 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) called on Friday for sustainable tourism through infrastructure investment, policy reforms and institutional development.
ADB President Takehiko Nakao made the remarks in his opening address at the 52nd Annual Meeting of ADB's Board of Governors which is being held in Nadi, the third largest city of Fiji.
"We can make tourism more human and inclusive by investing in the right skill sets of people," he said. "We must also pursue sustainable tourism by protecting nature, the environment, cultural heritage and local communities. Otherwise, cities, beaches, and forests lose their attraction. Appropriate policies and regulations are essential."
The ADB president also pledged that his bank will promote regional cooperation for tourism and help Asian countries take advantage of their beautiful landscapes, rich cultures and histories, and warm hospitality.
Thanks to a growing middle class, more leisure time, budget airlines, the influence of social media, better quality tourist infrastructure, and policies to promote the tourism industry, the number of tourists has dramatically increased.
According to the ADB chief, in 2018, about 350 million international tourists arrived in Asia and the Pacific countries. This number has more than doubled since 2005. There is an increasing number of Asian tourists.
Income from tourism is an important source of gross domestic product (GDP) for many countries. Tourism is also important for job creation due to the labor-intensive nature of its services. As robotics and artificial intelligence become more common, there will be a natural desire for more human interactions and seeing real things, the ADB chief said.
In the South Pacific island nation of Fiji, which has a population of about 900,000, the tourism industry employs about 119,000 people both directly and indirectly and contributes close to 40 percent to its GDP.
Visitor arrivals in Fiji have steadily increased and in 2018, the island nation recorded a total of 870,309 visitors which was a 3.3 percent increase from 2017.
The Fijian government has set a target to make local tourism a 2.2-billion-Fijian-dollar (about 1.01 billion U.S. dollars) industry by 2021.