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Meeting and Rotary Club Bangkapi look at urban tourism and heritage issues in Asia

TDN Asia was invited to highlight the importance of urban tourism in Asia and the way to better integrate heritage and culture into an urban tourism experience.

BANGKOK- The Rotary Club of Bangkapi hosted a lunch at the Grand Hyatt Erawan on October 30 to welcome some of his new members and also to look at the topic of urban tourism in Asia. As Asia Pacific experienced in 2011 over 217 million million arrivals (UNWTO sources), cities are turning into major gateways to global tourism. Their contribution to tourism development is growing significantly as highlighted by a recent study commissioned by Mastercard International. In its MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2012, it is estimated that visitors (domestic and international) to Asia Pacific top cities will reach this year 77.6 million while generating spending US$ 104.7 billion. Cities tourism success is due to the emergence of new Asian consumers: more independent, more IT-savvy, more sophisticated and having a more hedonistic approach of life.

While global branding is of course part of the city’s experience with its ubiquitous shopping malls, international restaurants and coffee chains, the search for authenticity and also a desire to feel a city’s identity gives a new chance to heritage. By designating cities as World Heritage Sites, UNESCO has been able to protect but also stimulate tourism in destinations such as Hoi An in Vietnam, Luang Prabang in Laos, Melaka and Penang in Malaysia or Vigan in the Philippines.

Now, it will be necessary to both private and public sectors to join hands and look at ways to integrate heritage into a tourism promotion policy. Theme tours such as architectural highlight or communities’ tour, heritage thematic marketing such as “Singapore, World City of Arts”, heritage thematic products (such as colonial hotels) will not only help promoting new districts, new areas, empower local communities but also preserve urban identities of Asian cities. Finally, world travellers certainly enjoy to be reminded that Bangkok is definitely not Jakarta and Jakarta is neither Manila nor Singapore…