Council demands 21st century thinking for future sustainability

Baumgarten…policies not promises

The voice of the world’s 100 foremost travel and tourism leaders, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), is calling for governments and organisations such as the United Nations, European Commission, G8 and G20, to re-examine the way policies that affect global travel and tourism are co-ordinated and implemented.

“Yet again the importance of travel and tourism, and the influence it has on nearly every facet of our lives, has gone unappreciated by governments,” says Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president and CEO of WTTC.

“At least until a crisis occurs, as the past weeks have demonstrated. This crisis has been handled with the mentality of the early 20th century, without recognising the needs of 21st century travel.”

Governments should be working together, with all sectors of the industry, to identify ahead of time measures to ensure the sustainable growth of an economy that represents 9.2 per cent of world GDP and employs 235 million people.

Although the effect of the volcanic ash cloud continues to lessen and a more reasonable approach to airspace restrictions is now being implemented, many travellers remained stranded overseas for some time and the travel and tourism industry is still suffering from the loss of business, plus the cost of repatriating its customers, and it will be some time before it returns to normal.

It is still too early to assess the full economic impact of the problem, but there are likely to be serious implications for all sectors. Legislation that could help the industry recover and grow is controlled through many different places and sometimes restricts trade rather than benefits it.

An important step forward, says Baumgarten, would be the introduction of centralised air traffic control for the whole of Europe, which could reduce the need for blanket bans on flights in the future.

“It is time,” Baumgarten continues “that the European Commission gets its act together, stops regulating misshapen fruit and starts creating consistent legislation for an industry that can truly benefit the world’s economies as we come out of recession.”

WTTC is urging the world’s leaders to attend its 10th annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Beijing, China from May 25 to 27, 2010. The event is the perfect opportunity for leaders of government to come to the table with the leaders of private-sector organisations and understand what can be done to ensure the health of the industry in the 21st century.

“Now that air restrictions are being lifted, let’s hope that travel and tourism can quickly get back to normal and enjoy a successful summer season.”

*As the UK prepares for a general election, the WTTC also called on its government to deliver ‘informed policies, not empty promises’.

At a meeting of senior figures in London Baumgarten said: “The travel and tourism economy supports three million jobs in the UK but, if government policies do not change, employment growth will be slow – increasing by only 0.6 per cent annually between now and 2020.”

This is just half the rate of growth projected by European Union member countries overall and less than one quarter of the forecast world growth.

The council and its members have identified three priority issues that the next UK government must address if visitor exports are to realise a potential 4.3 per cent annual growth over the next decade.

These are visa pricing and processing, reducing or removing taxation and developing transport infrastructure.

At the meeting Baumgarten also drew comparisons with China, where the State Council recently approved tourism guidelines that give the highest recognition yet to the industry as a strategic pillar supporting the national economy.

Baumgarten said: “The UK must not waste the opportunity presented by hosting the Olympics in 2012 for travel and tourism to lead the country’s economic recovery. By recognising the potential of the industry the government can maximise the return on the investment it is making.”