Shaping the present for the future in Macao

This week the third Global Tourism & Economy Forum (GTEF) takes place in Macao, pulling in tourism ministers and influential decision makers from around the world to discuss where the travel industry is heading next. I’m really honoured to have been invited to join a panel discussion in one of the Forum’s main sessions to discuss precisely how and why they should start to catering to the next generation of travellers.

There’s a special focus for this year’s GTEF, and it’s a subject close to the heart of the Chinese leadership in particular: the Maritime Silk Road. Today this 3000 year old trading route is has re-emerged as a focus of attention as a route not for the trading of silk and spices but increasingly for the attraction it has for tourists from around the world. More generally, it is now at the heart of China’s strategy to build economic and cultural links through a rich stream of countries that stretch from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean via the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. As the organisers put it:

‘On the back of trade, interest and ideas blossomed. People separated by the seas but connected by the MSR began to develop a fascination for cultures abroad and the first seeds of tourism were sown. In the 21st century, tourism has replaced silk, tea and spices which were the most important commodities traded along the ancient MSR. By fully leveraging their diverse culture and heritage, Maritime Silk Road nations today are actively enhancing cross-cultural connection and making alliances to strengthen their competitiveness in developing tourism economy.’

I’ll be speaking at a special session on the afternoon of Tuesday 28 October where we discuss how destinations along the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) can start building their strategy for tomorrow’s tourism development today. In particular we’ll be asking:

  • What strategic steps are tourism leaders taking to harness the new forces in consumer culture?
  • How are social media and mobile technology transforming the industry?
  • How do all these changes energize the industry and its leaders?
  • What does the history of the Maritime Silk Road teach us?
  • Has tourism replaced trade as the prime mover for travel?
  • How important is air connectivity in the 21st century versus maritime connectivity over 500 years ago?

These are all big questions, and to answer them, I’ll be discussing the research I did earlier this year with the Pacific Asia Travel Association into The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller as well as some of my other insights into the Millennials market. I look forward to sharing some of the lessons learned from the session in my next blog post.

Meanwhile, if you are among the 1,200 people attending this year’s GTEF, you can follow my Twitter feed @Genctraveller and drop me an email at and I look forward to meeting you!

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