BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- For Zhou Yi, Asian countries are the best tourist destinations.
Island views in Thailand, beaches and sunsets in the Philippines, deer in Japan and pagodas in Myanmar, treasures are everywhere in Asia, said the 35-year old mom.
"Asian countries share a similar culture, and I don't need to bring a lot of cash with me when I travel since Alipay is usable almost everywhere," Zhou said.
Boasting more than 550 world heritage sites and nearly 250 intangible cultural heritages, Asia is a land of vast tourism resources. Also, the continent dazzles world travelers with different civilizations, all kinds of exquisite food and wine, and numerous folk festivals.
"With a mature tourism industry, high-quality services, reasonable prices and shorter air travel time, trips to Asian countries can always give us colorful, diverse and fully relaxing experiences," Zhou said.
CLOSER PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGES
In recent years, tourism has become a booming industry that bonds Asian countries with frequent people-to-people exchanges.
China and other Asian countries and regions are the most important tourist sources and destinations for each other. Since 2000, Asian tourists have accounted for more than 60 percent of China's inbound travel market.
Chinese people made nearly 50 million outbound trips to Asian countries in 2018 while inbound trips by Asian visitors reached about 40 million, according to a report released at a sub-forum of the ongoing Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) in Beijing.
"Tourism is crucial for exchanges and mutual learning among different countries and cultures," said Luo Shugang, minister of culture and tourism, at the forum.
Exchanges and cooperation in culture and tourism among Asian countries have effectively promoted people's understanding, recognition and appreciation of each other's civilizations, which has laid a solid foundation for the long-term and sound development of friendly relationship among Asian countries, Luo said.
"It's tourism that makes China and Thailand brothers because it's close to people's daily lives. And more and more Thai people are interested in seeing the ancient Silk Road in recent years, so they travel to Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. The development of tourism is mutually beneficial," said Phinij Jarusombat, head of the Thai-Chinese Cultural and Relationship Council, at the forum.
According to the report, the tourism industry, with its large scale, high frequency, and low threshold, has huge advantages compared with other kinds of bilateral exchanges in consolidating public support of bilateral ties.
Htike Lwin Ko, a 32-year old Myanmar student who is pursuing a doctoral degree in Minzu University of China, said he hopes to find a job to promote bilateral exchanges after graduation, and tourism is a desirable sector.
FASTER ECONOMIC, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
The burgeoning tourism industry has also contributed to economic and social development among Asian countries.
According to the report, inbound tourism revenues of Asian countries reached more than 509 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, accounting for 38.4 percent of the world's total.
The tourism sector has created hundreds of thousands of job opportunities in Cambodia, and accounted for 12.7 percent of the country's GDP last year, said Thong Khon, Cambodia's tourism minister, at the forum.
"Tourism also brings sources of income and resources that can support and strengthen cultural preservation in an era of innovation and globalization," he said.
The massive flow of tourists across Asia countries has dramatically expanded the markets of catering, accommodation, transportation, cultural entertainment, and other sectors, according to Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy.
A survey by the World Travel and Tourism Council shows that tourism's contribution to the local economy and employment in 20 Asian countries and regions was higher than that of the global average in 2017.
"The consumption of cross-border travelers not only brings direct income to locals but provides a wide range of job opportunities, boosting local employment," Dai said.
At the forum, Luo called for more high-quality tourism products with innovation and high technologies to meet people's demand shift from "to see" to "to see it beautifully and delicately."
He also proposed easier application processes for visas and transportation among Asia countries.
"In the future, tourism will become an indispensable carrier for the spread of civilizations, and even new social forms will come into being as a result," said Liu Simin, a tourism expert from Beijing Foreign Studies University.