Industry set to bounce back after three-year dip
THE fourth Global Travel & Tourism Summit, hosted by Qatar Airways in Doha between May 1 and 3, pulled record numbers this year, of more than 800 public and private sector decision-makers and media from 40 countries around the world.
“Over the past couple of years, the series of crises that have affected travel and tourism has increased awareness, more than ever before, of the contribution of the industry to the creation of wealth, jobs and prosperity at all levels of the economy,” Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which organises the summit, told delegates at the two-day meeting. “Travel and tourism is uniquely placed to encourage close contact between peoples and cultures, thus promoting greater international understanding, tolerance and respect of different cultures, religions and values.'
The 2003 summit, held in Vilamoura, Portugal, addressed the critical question of how to build new tourism in today’s marketplace. “The different crises of the past couple of years have been a catalyst for some fundamental changes in demand that have been slowly emerging since the mid-1990s,” said WTTC chairman, Vincent A Wolfington. “Changes that include a redefinition of personal behaviour and lifestyles.”
Under the theme Driving Change, the fourth global summit featured an impressive list of well-known speakers from different sectors of the industry and government, and representing all regions of the world.
The good news for the industry is that the current prospects for travel and tourism growth are better than they have been for a long time, thanks to the improved global economy – one of the main drivers of demand. But while the US, together with China, is leading this economic growth it is also, paradoxically, a source of anxiety. The US recovery has so far been a jobless one, with one million additional jobs lost since the recovery started. This is due to the fact that some 70 per cent of jobs lost are structural, and are simply not being replaced by jobs in new industries.
“Governments need to recognise the fact that this is where travel and tourism can help,” said Baumgarten, “since it takes up unemployment at a much faster rate than other economic sectors.”
Other areas – cited at the summit – in which governments can and should act to facilitate the sustainable growth of travel and tourism and drive change included the continued enhancement of safety and security measures, a greater attention to understanding and eliminating the root cause of terrorism, and more care and consideration paid to the issuing of travel advisories, which should be more specific in terms of both geography and the nature of threat in a particular location.
Certain key factors need to be assured to facilitate the growth of travel and tourism, delegates at the summit concluded. These include a favourable government fiscal policy, a climate that is conducive to business and offers incentives for investment, sustained and effective marketing and promotion, and policies that respect the environment and local cultures. A destination’s travel and tourism can also only flourish in open market conditions, so governments should improve access by liberalising air transport and removing all other barriers to sustainable growth.
There was nonetheless consensus at the summit that, while governments can do a lot to facilitate travel and tourism, at the same time providing much needed infrastructure and human capital, change can only be driven by the private sector. It is up to the industry, then, to harness technology, including the Internet, to drive new business strategies and develop new business and new pricing models, to understand people as a resource rather than as a cost, and ensure they get the people equation right – in relations with customers and staff, as well as in staff development, training and leadership generally, and to provide a strong value proposition.