MACAO - With major infrastructure projects in the Pearl River Delta region now in place, the next step is to strengthen software integration in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to take it to even greater heights, says Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy (CTA).
He made the call in a keynote address at a panel discussion organized by China Daily in conjunction with the two-day Global Tourism Economy Forum 2018 in Macao on Wednesday.
There’s a need to design the inter-connection of law, regulation and policies, such as granting permission for vehicles to use the newly-launched Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, mutual cross-border identification recognition and greater convenience in visa application, Dai urged.
He stressed that if people feel inconvenient to travel, the benefits of transportation connection would fail to materialize.
Thus, the Macao Special Administrative Region should reconsider and re-position its tourism industry against the background of the region’s “three-hour living and travel circle”.
Last year, Macao hosted up to 32 million inbound tourists, according to CTA research but, Dai noted, the second-largest tourist group was from Hunan province after Guangdong province.
That means there’s still a vast market to be tapped on the Chinese mainland, he said, adding that Macao must join hands with cities in the Bay Area cluster, including Zhuhai, in promoting tourism to mainland travelers.
Dai believes that Zhuhai’s infrastructure construction and business resources can help Macao break through its land limitations and improve its industry structure.
Zhang Haitao, vice-chairman and president of CITIC Capital Holdings, agreed that the Bay Area’s development requires not just connection, but also integration.
He noted that some policy limitations between the Hong Kong and Macao SARs and Guangdong have hindered population movement and industry exchanges.
However, there would be fresh opportunities when the Bay Area differentiates itself from other bay economies in the world, Zhang said, speaking from his personal experience in investments in Tokyo or New York over the past few decades.
“In the past, our investments had focused on the Chinese mainland or businesses related to the mainland. But, now, we’re considering expanding to Hong Kong and Macao,” Zhang said.
Wang Wenyin, chairman of the board of Amer International Group, believes the Bay Area will become “the world’s growth engine in the 21st century”.
The Pearl River Delta is where the nation’s most advanced productivity force and most outstanding talents are assembled, and the integration of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao will create a strong city cluster, he said.
Wang pinned high hopes on Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao – four key cities in the Bay Area cluster --convinced they’ll serve their own roles in helping the region grow into a world-class economic powerhouse.
A “historical opportunity” Greater Bay Area: A watershed for cities' economiesor tourism has already emerged with the mega Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge entering service, bringing greater convenience to travelers in the region, said Ding Zuohong, chairman of the board of directors of Yuexing Group.
The HZMB will spur greater market and tourism demand will grow significantly, he said.
Noting that the tourism industry chain also involves a host of other sectors, Ding urged the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to grasp the opportunity and adjust their strategies to pave the way for the development.
Su Zhanhang, vice-president of Chimelong Group, said the launch of the HZMB and the cross-boundary high-speed rail in the area has brought great convenience to visitors to the region.
The commute time from the two SARs to the two Chimelong theme parks in Guangzhou and Zhuhai, which receives some 13 million visitors annually, has been substantially cut to less than one hour, he noted.
“Different from its counterparts in the world, the Bay Area enjoys its own unique geographical position and historical background. It’s located where eastern and Western cultures converge”, said Wang Lei, co-founder and president of Beijing Sky Limit Entertainment Group.
“For the region, there’s no lack of cultural elements, which is highly important for the development of the tourism economy.”
The Bay Area development will create huge opportunities for tourism enterprises and promote industry upgrade and integration, pointed out Zheng Hongxia, general manager of Tourism Business Management Center of OCT Group Co.
“A number of influential landmark tourism projects are expected to be developed in the region,” she forecast.
The expansion of the tourism economy in the Bay Area will further fuel the growth of related industries, including the creative and service industries, help draw talent and cultivate more entrepreneurs, she added.
But, to achieve that, she said, it’s vital to create a sound business environment, build up a competitive talent pool and make greater efforts toward innovation.
Speaking of innovation, Huang Danqing, president of real-estate company Ronghui (Fujian) Group Co, said they plan to carry out some new projects based on the large Bay Area’s consumption group, including green construction and cooperation with the culture industry. Apart from that, the technological advantage of the Bay Area is also a welcome boost.
For technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality, which provide immersive experience for people, a major application is tourism, Wang noted.
“If tourism can better integrate with VR and AR technologies, the Bay Area will unleash huge potential,” he said.