NARA — A Chinese delegate to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting on tourism warned Thursday that tourist travel between Japan and China could be further damaged over escalating tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over Japan’s arrest of a Chinese trawler captain near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

“Responsibility for this incident lies with the Japanese, and it has already impacted tourism between the two countries, and even in the Asian region. If it’s not resolved, there will be even more of an impact,” said Zhang Xilong, deputy director general of the China National Tourism Administration.

Zhang’s comments came during a news conference following the end of the two-day summit of 21 Asia-Pacific countries and regions on how to promote tourism. His words capped a tense gathering, which began when Land, Transport, Infrastructure, and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi refused to accept a courtesy call by the Chinese delegation Wednesday. The Chinese delegation retaliated by boycotting a reception thrown by Mabuchi on Wednesday evening.

At a separate news briefing, Mabuchi avoided comment on Zhang’s remarks or the dispute with Beijing, saying only that the Chinese did agree with the meeting’s final declaration to strengthen tourism cooperation among all APEC members.

“As tourism minister and as host of this meeting, I think it’s extremely important to note that it was agreed tourism is an engine for growth, and that all of us agreed to push the APEC leaders, who are meeting in Yokohama in November, to make a statement on the significant contribution tourism can make to Asia-Pacific economic development,” Mabuchi said.

The Nara Declaration that was agreed at the meeting emphasizes development of sustainable tourism industries, but it also calls for investment in newly emerging tourism trends such as medical and wellness tourism, religious events tourism, sports tourism and cruise tourism.

As tourism within the Asian region grows, some APEC member economies are doing better than others. Japan, due to the high yen, and, compared with many other Asian nations the high costs of travel, food, lodging and recreation, is not as competitive as less expensive Asian countries when it comes to bringing in foreign tourists.

At the same time, as tourism within Asia expands, governments, tourism offices and local hospitality industries are finding that, very often, tourist-related information is lacking or insufficient to meet growing demand.

“While advocating an ‘inbound tourism strategy,’ a universal tourism theme with a great economic impact, we encourage member economies to further promote tourism by sharing relevant information and best practice, and by exploring opportunities for collaboration within the region. In this context, we stress the importance of tourism offices and organizations, both in the public and private sectors, of member economies and promoting collaboration between them,” the Nara Declaration states.

Promoting sustainable tourism and ecotourism within the APEC region has long been a stated goal of member nations, and the Nara Declaration reaffirms APEC’s verbal commitment to those two areas. But travel experts warn that for tourism, particularly ecotourism, in Asia to flourish further, some nations need to do more than just build new facilities.

“Sadly, some Asian nations generally place economic development ahead of protecting their environments. This is particularly true in Malaysian Borneo. Local political corruption also often gets in the way of effective environmental protection,” said Chris Rowthorn, a Kyoto-based travel writer who has written a number of books for the “Lonely Planet” guidebook series.

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