Industry can learn from Dubai, says WTTC boss

The next WTTC summit in Dubai will examine issues of infrastructure, social responsibility and human resources, WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten tells SHALU CHANDRAN in an exclusive interview
Baumgarten: Dubai leads the way

What made you pick Dubai to host the next Global Travel and Tourism Summit?
For thousands of reasons! But if you narrow it down, it would be two reasons: one is the impact that Dubai has on the travel and tourism world.

The other is that Dubai is a success story and it will help us to talk about what we are going to do in future. How a success story can continue over the years and how travel and tourism, which according to statistics is growing at 4.3 per cent every year over the next 10 years, will answer and have a responsible attitude towards a couple of issues. A major issue is infrastructure. Travel and tourism is growing all over the world and countries are not developing infrastructure to keep up with that growth. Especially in England, which just can’t cope with the growth. Dubai is a country that has, over the last 30 years, continued to adapt its infrastructure to its pace of growth.
It is also an example of how travel and tourism is employing people. Today we have 1.5 million workers in Dubai and the industry must now take a hard look at human resources. We are the ultimate servicing industry. The industry faces this issue worldwide but Dubai is on the way to handle it. That will be part of our discussions.
The third one is related to social responsible attitude which has environment and also includes social and cultural aspects. The environment is definitely an issue which the world is facing.
Travel and tourism represents, according to experts of the United Nations, 10 per cent of the world carbon emission. We need to discuss how to be a part of the solution at our next summit. Dubai is an example here too, of how a country, government and industry are taking responsible actions.

But why should developing countries concentrate on responsible development while it still has to develop its infrastructure?
That is the chicken-and-egg story. Human adventure needs action and that is what is happening here. In Dubai, the government knows that their airplanes and hotels are full and is taking the right measures with the metro, new roads and hotels, desalination plants.
Take London or the airports in the US, they are not able to handle incoming traffic. The difference between them and Dubai is that Dubai has taken the initiative to overcome that problem.
The UK has not built one runway since World War II, but in Dubai, even with its traffic jams, there is action to solve the problem.

What about employment – how much can travel and tourism contribute to it?
Travel and tourism in its broader aspect employed 231 million people last year. In the Middle East alone it was six million. We have always said we are creating jobs and we have delivered our promise and now need to go a step beyond and create careers, because the demand for jobs and skilful management is immense.
We would fail in our mission not to initiate that dialogue among our members and the government so that the young people can be made aware of the jobs available and that servicing people is not a degrading job.
Our industry is considered a low-paying industry without a future, which is wrong and it is up to us to get the message across.

What are the key areas that the Middle East needs to focus on?
The Middle East has to focus on diversity. With low-cost carriers, for example, you have a product that suits the mid-size market. But this must be handled carefully as the Middle East is known as a ‘five-star destination’ and in Dubai, it does not look like the trend is going to change.
Other countries in the region also have their own particularities: Oman has the flair of the past, Abu Dhabi is focused on environmental five-star products. So Dubai has created the spark and the rest of the region is now trying to create their own identity, which will mean that in 10 years time, this will be a fantastic, diversified tourist destination of the world.