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旅游休闲杂志全媒体专访世界休闲组织首席运营官Cristina Ortega女士

Travel & Leisure All-media Interview with Ms. Cristina Ortega, the COO of World Leisure Organization

Cristina Ortega, 世界休闲组织首席运营官, The COO of World Leisure Organization.

采访者:旅游休闲杂志全媒体(Travel & Leisure All-media, 以下简称T&L)

受访者:世界休闲组织首席运营官Cristina Ortega女士, 以下简称Cristina

T&L: What do you think is the special significance of the World Leisure Congress held in Pinggu?


Cristina: Occurring biennially, the concept of the World Leisure Congress differs from many other major conferences in several respects, needless to mention this 16th edition which will be organized in a hybrid format.


First of all, due to its idyllic environment. Beijing, the capital city of China, attracts worldwide attention as a modern metropolis. However, when it calls for relaxation, Pinggu, the so-called back garden of Beijing, is definitely a preferential choice. Located in the east of Beijing, it serves as a bridgehead in the endeavour to drive the coordinated development of the Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei region. Whenever you visit it, no matter it is in the blooming spring or fruitful autumn, this district will never fail to impress you with its diverse charm of history, nature and modern development.


In second place, since it is a city prepared nationally and internationally for congresses, conventions and any kind of business events. Pinggu enjoys the reputation as the home of Chinese calligraphy. Its current profound calligraphy atmosphere dates back to years ago. In 2009, the locally born calligrapher Wang Youyi, who is well-known as a leading figure of seal script, launched “Shangyuan Calligrapher Gathering”, held in Pinggu, and the past decade has already witnessed 11 grand gatherings of seal script in Chinese calligraphy world. Such Chinese calligraphy exhibitions not only attract people’s attention but also motivate the locals’ passion for learning calligraphy in everyday life.


It also claims to be the violin-making capital of China as well as the largest exporter of stringed instruments in the world. Beyond violin, Pinggu is dedicated to exploring its development with other areas of music. The annual International Peach Flower Music Festival and the Music Festival of China Music Valley held in Pinggu have attracted tens of millions of music fans. In the meantime, China Yuegu Music Valley Leisure Park, a comprehensive modern urban public resort, is under construction. All of these provide the local residents as well as the national or international visitors with opportunities to enjoy music and a way to enjoy leisure.


As a National Ecological Civilization Pilot Demonstration Zone, Pinggu’s strategy truly reflects the philosophy of sustainable development. Moreso, in terms of living conditions, Pinggu focuses on creating ecological urban and rural areas by increasing the green cover and improving the quality of water resources, which could provide residents even with an outstanding eco-friendly living environment. Furthermore, at tourism level, Pinggu relies on the rich natural resources and human heritage to upgrade a number of tourist attractions, such as Jinhai Lake Scenic Area, Qinglong Mountain Scenic Spot (Yuyang International Ski Resort), Jingdong Stone Forest Gorge, Jingdong Grand Canyon Scenic Area, Yaji Mountain Scenic Area, etc., which have attracted tens of thousands of visitors.


The Jinhai Lake International Convention and Exhibition Center will serve as the core venue for the 2021 World Leisure Congress. It covers a gross floor area of 65,000 m2, of which 37,000 m2 is above ground and 28,000 m2 is below ground. Recently, this venue has been used for holding major domestic and foreign conferences, exhibitions and cultural exchange activities. This center has served as the starting point for the construction, in the medium and long term, of Jinhai Lake cultural tourism leisure town and international tourism complex, which will definitely become an important convention and exhibition facility in east Beijing in the later period.

金海湖国际会展中心将作为2021年世界休闲大会的核心会场。总建筑面积6.5万平方米,其中地上面积为3.7万平方米,地下面积为2.8万平方米。近期,该场馆已用于举办国内外重大会议、展览和文化交流活动。该中心作为中长期建设金海湖文化旅游休闲小镇和国际旅游综合体的起点, 后期必将成为北京东部的一项重要会展设施。

In addition, and as mentioned before, this 16th WL Congress has the peculiarity of being the first to be celebrated in a hybrid format. We have put a lot of effort into making this possible, so that people from all over the world can feel involved, even though this time from their houses and via digital display. This format will probably be around for a long time and, therefore, this congress will be the perfect case in point and will lay the foundations for future editions. We have tried our best to make it happen in the greatest possible way.


T&L: What are your expectations for the Pinggu Beijing World Leisure Congress? What achievements do you expect?

Cristina: At WLO, we believe that WL Congresses play a key role, not only because they are a unique learning and networking opportunity for participants, but also because they maximize collaboration and sharing opportunities between national and international working groups and stakeholders. Moreover, these synergies may be further enhanced as the congress extends in time and space. Thus, such long-term impact leaves an important legacy to the hosting community.


For the WLO it will be a unique occasion to broaden our mission and vision to all corners of the globe and, more particularly, in this area of such great interest to us as Pinggu-Beijing. Also, in terms of academia and professionals involved in WLO areas of action, current WL Congress edition will serve to further progress in areas of knowledge such as leisure and innovation, leisure and urban planning, leisure and economic and community development, and so on.


Specifically, for Pinggu-Beijing we expect that this congress will generate significant impact, both economic and socio-cultural.


In terms of economic impact, first of all, Pinggu-Beijing World Leisure Congress will boost Pinggu-Beijing's position as an international reference in the leisure field. Pinggu-Beijing will be promoted as world-renowned tourism destinations that will enhance their own potential. WL Congress will also foster the creation of new cross-business opportunities as well as its commercial activity and the creation of future jobs related to the field. In addition, and due to the participation of experts in the main themes of the congress, the level of the performance will increase. All of the aforementioned will also affect the length of the community visits.


On the other hand, the socio-cultural benefits that the WL Congress will bring to Pinggu-Beijing shall impact the social cohesion among the local and international stakeholders’ involvement. Pinggu-Beijing is a culturally vibrant city, therefore the celebration of the WL Congress in Pinggu-Beijing is bound to further activate and increase the cultural participation of its communities and citizens. Another major aspect of this edition of the WL Congres focuses on recognizing and revitalizing the importance of China's traditions and culture. It will be a wonderful opportunity to present them to the world and in particular to the international participants. Last but not least, it will build the pride of the international/local leisure community and will internationally validate the Pinggu-Beijing community groups, resulting in an increased participation and recognition of the local community in this and future events held along the region.


T&L: What do you think are the new developments and changes of leisure in the world? What is China's role in it?

Cristina: In recent years, we have seen that the ways in which people think about leisure have changed and evolved. We can say that leisure is everything that people do in a free way and without a utilitarian purpose but, fundamentally, because the joy it brings to people. However, it can be much more. We are at a point that asks us to consider the importance of leisure, as a field which touches many sectors and ecosystems: cultural, sports, tourism or recreation. Hence, it is precisely this characteristic of its transversality, which allows us to have a look away from positions of extreme defense of a specific activity. At this point, it is important to understand that there is a distinct role played by the consumer of leisure compared with the role played by leisure operators, academics or policy makers.


The first key of this point is in the context and in what the COVID-19 crisis is meaning: it has been verified, in a reliable way, that leisure is fundamental for society. However, this need is rarely translated. In relation to this, one of the new developments of leisure is that societies, in terms of leisure, are entering in the co-creation of value.


Within this reflection, there is a part that has to do with the fundamental right to leisure, guaranteed in articles 24 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other political documents of global scope, such as the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Some developments are related to the establishment of appropriate mechanisms to guarantee it and recognize the intrinsic and at the same time diffuse value that leisure implies, because sometimes the lack of consensus on the valuation of the elements of leisure can cause that intrinsic value to be lost. In this sense, for example, WLO has proceeded to review one of our great contributions: The WL Charter for Leisure 2020, in order to cover important updates and changes in line with emerging social and global problems.


Another part of the reflection, derived from that fundamental right to leisure, is creation and enjoyment. This has to do with the sector itself and with its professionals, as we must ensure that we really identify with who we are. It is necessary to invest in Research and Development with a social base, without losing sight of its relationship with science and innovation. Leisure has become in recent years a strategic sector due to the important role it plays as a catalyst for economic activity and employment, thanks to its creative and innovative component. The activity stop has been used to create new ideas and products. Here creativity plays a fundamental role and, of course, digitization and innovation.


There is no doubt that, for some time now, the support per excellence of knowledge is the digital support. Among the advantages of digitization, we find that it allows us to do networking in a talent environment. It also has an impact in the labour market as it facilitates, for instance, the access to culture, leading to greater social and professional inclusion. This digitization has also changed the creation of leisure products and services, audience engagement, marketing and in the exhibition and distribution of leisure products, as it has become clear during the pandemic with a large range of different purpose such as the celebration of events like this, the WL Congress in a hybrid format. This quantitative progression pushes us to a profound qualitative change. In a society in which knowledge and skills become obsolete before even becoming routine, practically all members of society become part of the creative process of the leisure field, perhaps not generating new ideas, but learning and incorporating them into their lives.


The objective of the new leisure must be to provide people with high-quality, rewarding and inclusive leisure activities that promote self-management of time and try to avoid isolation, since the value of it is about making leisure more equal and accessible, as an international human right, as it has been confirmed that there is a relationship between leisure and learning throughout life, also called Life-Long Learning (LLL). For all this, the leisure field, understood as a network that is capable of generating alliances and a resilient ecosystem, will need greater articulation and development of proactive actions.


T&L: What is the purpose of the World Leisure Organization for "youth leisure" in China?


Cristina: At the World Leisure Organization, we believe that young people should be at the forefront of the design, development and implementation of our current and future programs. For this reason, youth play a major role within our organization in order to meet our goals related to leisure and human development. We have specific programs to engage this part of the community so that they can feel involved and, in this particular case, for Chinese youth to see the potential advantages and invite them to join the network.

Firstly, World Leisure Youth Ambassadors (WLYA) programme provides college and university students to connect on a local-to-global basis while gaining a broader perspective of trends, issues, strategies and advancing leisure worldwide. WLO invests in WLYA, by empowering them within the organization and the leisure community. World Leisure Youth Ambassadors will be able to build their career network by connecting and contributing (work with peers internationally) to the leisure community, develop professionally, and gain profile recognition.


WLYA together with the WL Centers of Excellence (WLCE), located throughout seven renowned universities around the world, constitute a platform to provide their students with international and intercultural learning experiences, amongst others by regularly organizing Field Research Projects and Field Schools.


WLCE “Leisure Experience Research Opportunity” (LERO) provides an opportunity for students of the WLCE to participate in an internationally oriented field research project aimed at characterizing tourism and leisure experiences. The last edition was organized in parallel to the World Leisure Expo and Forum 2019 held in Hangzhou, China. The students had the opportunity to expand their knowledge about that region through these autoethnographic experiences and, in addition, they were invited to join the World Leisure Expo and Forum as delegates.


World Leisure international Field School, leaded by World Leisure Centers of Excellence, is another learning opportunity that combines field experience with congress attendance. Initiated in the 2014 WL Congress in Mobile, Alabama (USA) it has now become one of the most successful and active programme of WLO for the youngest leisure community. Previous Field School editions took place in Durban, South Africa (2016) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (2018). We are currently working on its next edition, which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic situation. Still, we remain committed to delivering an exceptional upcoming Field School, planned to be announced soon.


We are sure that this enriching experience of Pinggu-Beijing WL Congress will leave behind new and motivating initiatives for the youth in China. We encourage all of you to stay tuned for more information and join us in the celebration of this WL Congress and other WLO initiatives.


T&L: How can the WLO adjust and innovate under the normalization of global epidemic?


Cristina: The pandemic will for sure teach us many lessons, and some of them are certainly related to leisure, which has really been a powerful tool during the lockdown in what concerns mental well-being, social attitudes and behaviour. The emergence of the global epidemic has forced us to change our habits, as well as our habitats, considerably, in order to rethink the new challenges and priorities we have to face and in so doing, leisure in its widest sense has been a source of distraction and inspiration.


As it is mentioned in WL Charter, provisions for leisure for the quality of life are as important as those for health and education. This means that leisure, as a democratic practice, is a crucial and powerful instrument for promoting social development, at the same time it plays an important role in the competitiveness of the economy, especially in the third sector, being a source of innovation and creation and consolidating itself as a tool to improve the lives of people and economic and social transformation.


Being aware that different regions in the world are in different stages of this pandemic, the WLO has played an active role since the first stages of it, by adjusting and innovating, namely in three different ways: by supporting those leading transformation, gathering information that may help make better informed leisure decisions in the future, and engaging in ongoing debates.


Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been focusing on looking at alternatives and finding new ways to deliver WLO programs. At WLO we count with a great number of expert networks with wide knowledge in planning, organizing and providing online education content – and keep working towards providing different opportunities and benefits for the Leisure community of scholars, practitioners, policymakers and students. In so doing, we have developed several initiatives to learn more about this phenomena (webinars, think tanks, WLO Strategic Priorities Grants (SPGs) or the celebration in 2021, for the first time, of the World Leisure Day, which aims to reinforce leisure as a social right and its importance in daily life, as well as to expand its possibilities of manifestation and promote reflection on the accesses and barriers that still exist for many people around the world).


This new period has showed us that despite all the scientific knowledge, we have not been able to understand the human experience in its full potential and capacity for successful or unsuccessful adaptations, mainly because the adverse events have been developed in an accelerating way, which means that the rapid responses taking into account have not been planned and examined in a quiet manner. The pandemic presents an enormous challenge at the same time it gives wide opportunities to make Agenda 2030 and ODS happen.


Being the leisure industry one of the most affected by the pandemic, this outbreak sharply conditioned us to rethink our strategies for upcoming events and other ongoing or future WLO programs and projects, not only in the short and medium term, but also in the long run, in order to be prepared for the future of the organization. However, we stay as positive as we can, always trying to see every new challenge that arises as a new opportunity for the organization, to continue its development in a changing –and now more than ever uncertain– environment.


That is why research, policy guidance and cooperation are more needed than never. It will be necessary to rethink some aspects of leisure, especially in what concerns planification and access. We will need innovative actions. More data should be used in leisure, so as to make sense of the complex environments we live in and develop solutions and implement policies to drive better outcomes. In the leisure field, we need to be inquiring mind by nature and try to always reinvent ourselves and have resilience to new challenges and opportunities, because in this field outputs appear over time, as well as the value.


T&L: What are the planning and target countries of the World Leisure Organization in the next five years? How will WLO continue to advocate and promote global leisure and all people's leisure?


Cristina: The WLO Vision is to position WLO as the leading global organization for leisure by offering a global platform for national associations and agencies and by providing leadership in advancing leisure as a central force for enhancing the human condition through advocacy, research, and education that promotes socio-cultural development, encourages sustainable economic growth, and improve the quality of life for every person worldwide.


This will be the core point on which the development of the WLO's Mission for 2021-2025 will then be based, which is to promote leisure as a means to enhance the human condition. Also, new Strategic Lines will help us to guide our actions for the next five years: research, education, knowledge transfer, advocacy and development.


Viewing leisure in its broadest context, that includes play, recreation, arts and culture, sport, festivals and celebrations, health and fitness, travel and tourism, and education, and realizing that leisure has a cross-cutting and powerful role to transform our world by 2030, WLO embraces Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  This is possible thanks to the continuity of the Six Priorities of World Leisure that were previously established and reviewed for their alignment within the new Strategic Plan 2021-2025. These priorities are in line with the mission, vision and goals of the United Nations and some of the SDGs and are the following:


1. Linking to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): To align and link the efforts of the World Leisure Organization to affirm, complement and support The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

2. Enhancing research and scholarship: To explore through research and scholarly activities the relationship of leisure to the concept of identity; the process of transformation; and ways in which leisure contributes to enhancing the human condition.

3. Advocating for leisure: To advocate for leisure by creating and disseminating policy statements, model legislative acts and information regarding leisure benefits.

4. Expanding educational opportunities: to provide educational opportunities and other learning venues focusing on ways in which leisure contributes to identity formulation, transformation and improving the human condition.

5. Strengthening partnerships and collaborative relationships: to strengthen partnerships, collaborative relationships and cooperative activities and ventures with related agencies, organizations, institutions, associations and societies.

6. Expanding membership: to expand membership of the World Leisure Organization in numerical and geographical terms.

Furthermore, new programs have been designed, as an example of our commitment to the global agenda, such as: the celebration of World Leisure Day on 16th April 2021, World Leisure Debates, Think Tanks and WL Cities Initiative, in the framework of the future action of implementing a WL worldwide Observatory, which aims to support cities in the development of policies, actions and programs in the field of leisure, focusing on the city level.

In terms of target regions and countries, WLO will continue to promote leisure rights around the world, by raising awareness of the importance of leisure nowadays as well as by engaging new members and reinforcing international cooperation. Despite the current uncertain situation, we are trying our best to design and develop the WLO future events, bearing in mind the possibility that they may require to be celebrated in a hybrid mode as for this 2021 Pinggu-Beijing WL Congress. In the first quarters of 2020 the WLO team has been dedicated and established conversations and relationships with more than 30 international cities, countries and regions representations worldwide. This includes representatives from the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, South Africa, Spain, UAE, Turkey, United States of America.


For some of our upcoming events, we have already confirmed locations: 2021 World Leisure Expo and Forum in Hangzhou, China; 17th. World Leisure Congress in 2022 Dunedin, New Zealand; 18th. World Leisure Congress in 2024 Rotterdam-Breda, the Netherlands; among others.


T&L: We understand what are the features and new initiatives of the next World Leisure Congress in Dunedin? How to learn from the successful experience of the last host city?


Cristina: The WL Congress 2018 in São Paulo was a great success in many different aspects. The cultural program and the overall atmosphere created by the local team, as well as the passion brought by all delegates, set a milestone in the history of the WLO. It gathered over 1,000 participants from 37 nations during five intense and exciting days. Furthermore, new activities such as the Early Career Researchers Session and the Global Leisure Debate opened new spaces for academic and international exchange and collaboration. Last but not least, the WL 2018 Congress left an important legacy with the conformation of the WL Latin American Chapter, and side events such as the Field School and Study Tour broaden the impact of the Congress beyond the attendees, leaving a deep and positive imprint on the local community.


From this upcoming 2021 WL Hybrid Congress we also expect to continue creating great new initiatives, in order to attract attendees from all over the world and, in general, to be as successful as the previous ones. All these lessons learned, and experiences will make us improve every edition and, therefore, from the 2022 WL Congress, which is scheduled to be held in December next year in the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, we can only expect great results.


Its main theme will be “Leisure: learn well, live well” as it encompasses a range of meanings relevant to its host city and, certainly, to the rest of the world. As the world continues to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on well-being leisure in our lives is of crucial importance to help us learn and live well. It is within this context that “Learn Well” reflects how we learn through leisure and the strong education focus in Dunedin, which is home to one of the world’s leading universities. “Live Well” reflects how leisure contributes to individual and community wellbeing at local, regional, and international levels.


T&L: After the end of this Congress, what do you think will bring to Pinggu Beijing in the future?


Cristina: Since the first World Leisure Congress was held in 1988, the World Leisure Organization has held 15 congresses in Hangzhou, China (9th), Sydney, Australia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Durban, South Africa and other cities. With 30 years of accumulation, the World Leisure Congress has gathered many academic resources, which has developed into the most influential academic event in the world leisure field. Affected by the global COVID-19 epidemic, the 16th World Leisure Congress, originally scheduled to be held in October 2020, was postponed to April 15-21, 2021 in Pinggu District, Beijing after being approved by the People's Government of Beijing Municipality and the World Leisure Organization.


This World Leisure Congress, with the theme of "Leisure Improves the Quality of Life", adheres to the concepts of all-domain leisure, all-season leisure and nationwide leisure, which will be held in the mode of "online + offline".


Through the integration of international elements, information-based conference management, cutting-edge theory sharing and the presentation of Chinese traditional leisure culture, this Congress will achieve the goal of "reflecting international standards, highlighting Chinese characteristics, creating leisure brands and sharing academic feasts", promote the vigorous development of leisure types in Beijing, lead the new leisure fashion in the world, and show the new look of the capital of a great power in the new era.


Experts from all over the world will gather here to discuss the world leisure trend as well as to spread the concept of leisure life and promote the vigorous development of the leisure field. In addition to inviting experts and scholars to discuss professional issues in the field of leisure, this World Leisure Congress will also release important academic achievements-Annual Report on Leisure City Development of China and Report on Beijing's Leisure Development to lead the leisure lifestyle. The First International Leisure Lifestyle Award Ceremony will be held to show colourful leisure lifestyles. It is reported that the International Leisure Lifestyle Award will be permanently settled in Pinggu to gather world leisure life cases, create a sample of Chinese leisure cities and convey new concepts of leisure life.


In this framework, the first WL hybrid Congress, as a mix form of real congress and virtual content, will increase the participation of attendees, by offering an alternative to onsite attendance. Additionally, the archived webcast 16th WL Congress could be used as an educational and promotional tool, both for Pinggu municipality (by attracting new targets or operators of leisure) and for WLO (by attracting new members or attendees), which in last term, will generate additional interest.


Last but not least, this 16th Congress will be crucial to unify the efforts of all leisure community toward a long-term goal at the same time it will allow WLO to spread its mission by attracting talent, guiding culture, improving its performance, envisioning the future, aligning behaviours and encouraging critical thinking. By joining forces and resources, we can accomplish far more than by going it alone, as we can see through the pandemic. The current challenges we face cannot be overcome without alliances.


T&L: From the World Leisure Congress held in China in Qingdao, Hangzhou and Pinggu Beijing, would you like to share some data on the positive role of world leisure organizations in promoting the national leisure in China?


Cristina: At WLO we are glad to have the opportunity to celebrate events like this in such great locations, in which we can experience at first-hand how sociable and engage Chinese people within the events themselves. We could experience this, for instance, in the our last events celebrated in China in 2019 (WL Games in Qingdao, and WL Expo in Hangzhou).


Events like this and the previous ones hosted in China, will make, for sure, lasting emotional connections with Chinese leisure in ways that other marketing channels would not be able to make.


世界休闲组织/World Leisure Organization



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