Tourism and Oceans at the heart of Annual Meeting

The Asia and Pacific regions are deeply connected to the ocean, relying on it for sustenance, income, and importantly their heritage, says the Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao. 

And the region is quickly becoming a tourism hub, with 350 million tourists descending on their shores in 2018, Mr Nakao added during his speech at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors.

“There is a phrase in the Fijian language—dua ga na ua—which means 'as one wave', and it describes the way people move together,” Mr .Nakao said.

“This meeting is our opportunity to work together as one wave for the future of Asia and the Pacific.”

Speaking moments after an elaborate and traditional welcoming ceremony, Mr. Nakao warned that by 2050, 90 percent of the region’s coral reefs will be dead if the world does not act to save them.

“Oceans are a public good and their protection requires collective action,” he said.

The bank announced this week a US$5 billion plan to invest in ocean health and sustainable "blue" economies, which includes a massive push for private sector investment in the area.

And where the private sector can make a big impact is in tourism. Mr Nakao said for some nations like Fiji, tourism can account for 40 per cent of gross domestic product, including the construction industry contribution.

He said policy reforms, infrastructure investment and institutional development are all ways the bank will work with countries to support sustainable tourism, especially because of its important role in job-creation.

“As robotics and artificial intelligence become more common, there will be a natural desire for more human interactions and seeing real things,” he said.

“We can make tourism more human and inclusive by investing in the right skill sets of people.

“We must also pursue sustainable tourism by protecting nature, the environment, cultural heritage, and local communities. Otherwise, cities, beaches, and forests lose their attraction.”

In his remarks, he also championed the cause of multilateralism, offered the bank’s economic outlook for the coming year and delivered a brief presentation on the bank’s operational direction for 2030.

Reducing poverty, making strides towards gender equality, addressing climate change, fostering regional cooperation, increasing private sector operations and continuing their work with concessional and grant financing are all ways the President highlighted about the coming year’s work.

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