DESPITE some inevitable cancellations due to concerns about the H1N1 flu epidemic in some countries, the 9th Global Travel & Tourism Summit attracted nearly 1,000 travel and tourism leaders from industry and governments, as well as the media, from 51 countries around the world.
Held from May 14 to 16 in Florianópolis, in the state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, panellists agreed during a special session that, while the epidemic of the influenza virus commonly known as swine flu had so far been relatively mild outside Mexico, its possible return in mutated form in the northern hemisphere winter remained a serious cause for concern.
However, the mantra “keep travelling” while exercising caution was reiterated by many on the discussion panels. “One of the main problems is that we are not getting a clear and consistent message across to reassure travellers,” said Baumgarten. “There is too much information out there that is confusing to travellers, and we have little control over how the media handle the story, or over how governments react when they are scared. We need to communicate more effectively.”
Participants at the summit advised travellers to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organisation to protect themselves and others by following simple prevention practices that apply while travelling and in daily life. Regular hand washing, normal coughing etiquette, avoiding contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections - these were among the basic steps travellers could take. Above all, the industry agreed that travellers should stay informed, and check regularly with www.SOS.travel or other reliable resources for the latest health updates. Through its Tourism Emergency Response Network (TERN), managed by UNWTO, the worldwide travel community is working closely with WHO and sharing views on a regular basis.
“We have a clear agenda for the future. Real partnerships can energise economies, so we now need to move forward and reinforce our collaboration for the benefit of our respective Members, the Travel & Tourism industry and our customers, the travelling public.”
Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President & CEO of WTTC
“We have to concentrate on the fact that tourism means jobs, something that has not filtered down to the public consciousness. We need to connect the tourism industry to the lives of everyday peopleor we will be seen as a marginal industry.”
Taleb Rifai, Secretary General ad interim of UNWTO
“Given tourism’s dynamic catalytic effect on other sectors of the economy, the Brazilian Government is determined to join hands with this sector to reinforce its role in job creation and in achieving social goals through responsible growth policies.”
Brazil’s President HE Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
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