China, Russia, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea agreed on Sunday to boost tourism in Northeast Asia.
The agreement, a memo signed at a forum involving the United Nations Development Program and Jilin province authorities, aims to promote cross-border tourism.
“Tourism is an industry that concerns a broad range of economic, social activities and, therefore, business interests. It cuts across many policy areas for governments in Northeast Asia and that requires closer ties and committed cooperation,” said Choi Hoon, director of the UNDP Tumen Secretariat.
He explained that cross-border tourism provided the best opportunity to enhance the region’s prosperity and security.
The Greater Tumen Initiative is an intergovernmental cooperation mechanism in Northeast Asia.
It is supported by the UNDP, and has four member countries, China, the ROK, Mongolia and Russia. It functions as a platform for economic cooperation in Northeast Asia and serves as a catalyst for policy dialogue in areas of transportation, energy, tourism, investment and environment.
Tourism is booming in Northeast Asia. The Tumen River area is home to a wide variety of tourist attractions, ranging from spectacular natural beauty to heritage.
The China National Tourism Administration said that the Asia-Pacific region attracted 170 million international tourists annually and over half of them traveled to Northeast Asia. The region’s annual average tourism growth rate reached 7.7 percent from 2000 to 2010.
“China will consciously assume the responsibility of eliminating regional barriers and travel obstacles. And we will work together with other countries to push forward international tourism cooperation and make the region an eye-catching global tourist destination,” said Wu Wenxue, senior official from China National Tourism Administration.
Jilin province has developed 11 cross-border travel routes in the past decade. And the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “self-drive” program gained in popularity since its introduction in 2011, attracting 30,000 tourists from home and abroad, according to the Hunchun Tourism Bureau.
Authorities have produced tourist maps for Eastern Mongolia, the Yanbian Korean autonomous region, Russia’s Primorsky Territory and the Rajin-Songbong area of the DPRK.
James Macgregor, a UNDP tourism specialist, praised the region’s vision.
“Northeast Asia represents one of the fastest growing tourism destination regions in the world. The potential for establishing cross-border tourism is huge,” he emphasized.
But experts close to the industry warn that there are too many uncertain elements.
Hong Kui, a travel agency manager, complained that the infrastructure was not ready to handle more international tourists.