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Humans 'hard-wired' to explore, says tourism industry leader

Wang Siwen


Around 400 tourism industry delegates from China and the United States have gathered in the city of Xi'an to discuss the future of tourism between the two countries. Wang Siwen spoke to Adam Burke, the president of the Los Angeles Tourism Convention Board. He's also serves as a vice chairman of the World Tourism Alliance (WTA).

Q: A number of memos and cooperation agreements have been signed between the tourism industries of China and the U.S.; what’s your comment on the achievements of the 14th China-US Tourism Leadership Summit?

Burke: I think the goals of the summit are several. Number one, I think we recognize that despite some of the challenges politically between the U.S. and China, tourism has always been the bridge. People to people and cultural exchanges has been the way to find common ground going all the way back to the 70s. The second thing is to really understand is what are the pain points? What are the things that may be inhibiting recovery both ways? I think that's one of the reasons why these types of dialogues are so important.

Q: The travel industry continues to evolve in different ways. What are the major trends that you see?

Burke: It's been interesting because there's been a shift in consumer sentiment. If you look back prior to the pandemic, travel was often viewed as a discretionary purchase. What we've seen around the world is that most consumers have moved it out of the discretionary category into an essential purchase. So, I think it's not about travel intent. I think, first of all, we are hard-wired to want to explore the world around us. One of the things I found fascinating,there were actually psychological studies done that showed that not being able to travel is actually creating depression. So, there's something really, deeply embedded in our humanity about the need to travel.

Q: You serve as a vice chairman of the World Tourism Alliance, what's your mission?

Burke: It's really been a privilege to serve in that capacity. The WTA I think, recognizes the power of tourism to really elevate communities. When you look at the member organizations, some of the work they're doing in addressing poverty alleviation, in addressing things like sustainability and climate change, and really using the power of tourism as a method to help improve the quality of life, it's a privilege to serve in that capacity and to partner with people from around the world.

I think the biggest thing recognized is that for over 60 years, Los Angeles and Guangzhou have had a sister city relationship. Chinese Americans first settled in Los Angeles in the 1850s, we're talking about two centuries worth of history between our peoples. Part of the reason I'm so optimistic about the future is that we've been through challenging times before, but it's through the power of tourism and these type of conversations and dialogue that we always find a common path forward. We talked earlier about the Chinese proverb that I think beautifully summarizes it, that we should read 10,000 books and travel 10,000 miles. I think we have to open our hearts and minds to be open to learning about other people, other cultures, but then that has to be matched by lived experiences. That can't be achieved any other way than travel. So, I think travel and tourism is the bridge that will help us move forward together.

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