WTTC likely to come to Dubai


DUBAI is likely to play host to the 2008 edition of the annual World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Summit, officials confirmed to TTN.

“There is a strong commitment to hosting the summit in 2008 from the Middle East chapter, but a final decision will be made at the meeting of our executive committee in Lisbon this May,” WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten said over the telephone. He was in Dubai with Ufi Ibrahim, WTTC chief operations officer, for a meeting of the Middle East chapter.
Among the subjects that were discussed at the meeting, said Baumgarten, was the industry’s commitment to the environment. “The industry here feels we have been fairly silent on our achievements on that front. Dubai, particularly, is a good example,” he said.
When reminded that there is a lot more to be done, he compared Dubai to Las Vegas. “From a desert, it is now a thunder of activity, providing jobs for millions of people. Indeed, it is now becoming a centre, not just of travel and tourism, but of finance, research and industry. We have to be careful not to demonise any activity. It is always easy to point fingers, but since humankind first started tilling the land, trees have been cut down.”
Dubai – and the wider Middle East – can show the way for the industry elsewhere on how to keep pace with growth, added Ibrahim. “The region is the perfect example of finding the right people, of how talent can be harnessed to maintain the right levels of service in, for example, the hospitality industry,” she said.
The shiny emirate also exemplifies partnership between the public and private sector, she said.
All of this ties in with the WTTC’s next summit, to be held in Lisbon from May 10 to 12, under the theme Breaking Barriers, Managing Growth. The industry’s highest-level talking shop, the summit always attracts heads of state and industry leaders, but for the first time, it is being thrown open to executives from other industries as well as non-governmental organisations.
“The time has come to sit together and find solutions, we can’t delay tackling these issues any longer,” Baumgarten said.
“A couple of years ago, after 9-11, the big question at the summit was how will the industry survive. Now it’s a growth issue.”
As global travel and tourism looks set to continue growing at 4.2 per cent over the next decade, he said, “Are the conditions in place for this growth to generate wide prosperity; or will opportunities be squandered and tensions mount because barriers are allowed to persist? And is growth to be pursued purely for profit, or is the travel and tourism sector capable of acting as responsible world citizens, bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots – since it is known that travel and tourism can be one of the solutions to create economic activity and spawn jobs?”
Part of the summit’s role is to make strong appeals to governments to recognise the industry and include it in long-term planning, so the necessary infrastructure is put in place, whether in terms of roads or air-traffic control.
Confirmed speakers include: Anيbal Cavaco Silva, president of Portugal; José Socrates, prime minister of Portugal; Bernardo Trindade, Portuguese secretary of state for tourism; Praful Patel, Indian minister of civil aviation; Geoffrey Kent, chairman, WTTC; Giovanni Bisignani, director-general and CEO, IATA; Ed Fuller, president and managing director, Marriott Lodging International; Alex Christou, managing partner, Accenture; Andrew Cosslett, CEO, InterContinental Hotels Group; Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder and chairman, EasyGroup; Dara Khosrowshahi, president & CEO, Expedia; Christopher Rodrigues CBE, chairman, visitBritain; Sonu Shivdasani, chairman and CEO, Six Senses Resorts & Spas; and Sarmad Zok, CEO, Kingdom Hotel Investments.