Ambassador's speech at International Mountain Tourism Alliance Beijing Forum 2018.
Mr Shao Qiwei, Vice Chairman of the IMTA
Dr Bo Keun Choi, Representative of the World Tourism Organization
Mr He Yafei, Secretary General of the IMTA
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to be with all of you this morning here in Beijing for the inauguration of the International Mountain Tourism Alliance Forum 2018. Mountains cover 24% of the world's land surface. They are found in every continent and exist in 139 countries. Mountain tourism is an important source of income and revenue for mountain communities and greatly assists in economic development and social progress. For all these reasons, your meeting today is very important.
India too has its fair share of mountains including some parts of the mightiest mountains on earth namely the Himalayas. This mountain range has some of the world's highest peaks and is also the source of some of the largest river systems on earth. That is why the ancient Indian poet Kalidasa wrote that “The Himalaya is a great devatma, a great spiritual presence, stretching from the west to the eastern sea like a measuring rod to gauge the world's greatness”.
Mountains have always held a great attraction for human beings. Moving into the mountains for a vacation or holiday has taken place over time for various reasons including escaping the heat of the plains, for rest and recuperation, for adventure and exploration and finally for culture and pilgrimage. Mountain tourism has always been welcomed by the people who live in the mountains as it provides them a source of livelihood and helps them develop their regions. It is estimated that 15 to 20% of annual global tourism is generated by mountains. This amounts to roughly 200 million tourists accounting for about US $ 200 billion in tourism revenue. While many countries and communities aspire to get a bigger slice of this mountain tourism pie, we are also well aware that there are certain costs to unrestrained approaches to attracting tourists. Today, we know that the ecology of the mountains is also a fragile thing which needs to be retained in its original form and hence the stress on sustainable mountain tourism. While we are aware that we cannot follow a one-size-fits-all approach, there are also many best practises which can provide a template for other countries and communities to follow. I am sure that your confabulation and discussion today will focus on these aspects of mountain tourism.
India has its fair share of beautiful mountain resorts and towns. Many of these are nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and provide a retreat for people from the large cities in the plains of our country. Given India's large population the number of domestic tourists itself is large. We also attract large scale foreign tourists to our mountain resorts. In recent times water scarcity is an issue which has raised its head in India's mountain tourism efforts. Hence, the whole area of sustainable mountain tourism is of special interest to us and I look forward to receiving and studying the results of your discussions today.
I would end with an example of India – China cooperation in mountain tourism which I hope would be studied by all of you as a best practice. As you know Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in the Tibet region of China are places of great religious significance to people of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain faiths. The Governments of India and China have over several years now cooperated closely in ensuring that pilgrims from India can visit these holy sites each summer thereby providing a perfect example for international cooperation in mountain tourism.
Let me end by saying how happy I am to be with all of you at this Forum on Mountain Tourism. I wish you the very best in your discussions and all success to your efforts.