Opinion: Now's the time for travel to lead, says WTTC president

Opinion: Now's the time for travel to lead, says WTTC president

By David Scowsill, chief executive officer and president of The World Travel & Tourism Council

Industry, national and world leaders – from chairmen and chief executives to presidents and government ministers – are converging on Abu Dhabi tomorrow and Wednesday for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit.

The summit will examine and discuss the industry’s responsibilities as it looks to plan for future growth in international travel, whilst meeting its moral and commercial obligations to people, the planet and profits.

The title of this year’s global summit is ‘A Time for Leadership’.

If there is one message which I’d like the industry to take away from this year’s summit, it’s that we all need to hammer the importance of this industry; not only at industry level but also at global level, not only within government ministries, but in boardrooms, in the media, among employees and within supply chains.

Over the next ten years, travel and tourism GDP is set to grow by 4.4% on average per year, outpacing growth in the wider economy and other industries, notably retail and public services.

By 2023, travel and tourism’s total economic contribution is forecast to account for 10% of global GDP, US$10.5 trillion dollars and 1 in ten jobs.

Total travel and tourism employment is forecast to increase by more than 70 million jobs over the next decade, with two-thirds of those additional jobs in Asia.

Asia will continue to lead growth, with annual average growth of over 6%, driven by increasing wealth among its middle classes.

By 2023, WTTC forecasts that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest travel and tourism economy, measured in total GDP terms and the size of the outbound market.

The 60 WTTC Global Summit speakers over the next two days include President Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, who will deliver the dummit’s keynote address.

Sir Jonathon Porritt, environmentalist, David de Rothschild, adventurer and environmentalist, Daryl Hannah, American actress and activist, Richard Solomons, chief executive, Intercontinental Hotel Group and Willie Walsh, chief executive, International Airlines Group will speak.

The WTTC summit will be an opportunity to explore the implications of our dramatically changing world economy and growing population on travel and tourism.

Four months after the world celebrated its one billionth international traveller, the Summit will examine what we need to do collectively to prepare for the next billion.

How do we facilitate the growth of our industry responsibly and sustainably, without destroying our planet in the process?

How do we manage the growth in demand for international travel from the two billion new middle class consumers emerging from burgeoning economies of China and India?

All of these subjects and more will be discussed tomorrow and Wednesday with the aim of giving greater direction and insight into the responsibilities ahead of us all as influential leaders.

So, what am I calling on everyone working in the travel and tourism industry to lead on? Well, I am asking the industry to fight visa bureaucracy.

Visa processes are needed which are transparent, cost effective and streamlined to enable travellers to move around the world quickly, efficiently and with minimum hassle.

I’m also asking the industry to play its part in detering more taxation and ensuring that taxes stimulate growth, rather than thwart it.

Rampant taxation in the aviation sector in many countries around the world - and additional hotel taxes, food & beverage taxes and even culture taxes - demonstrate that governments view passengers as a revenue source rather than a revenue generator, and that needs to change.

And, last but not least, the industry needs to promote and pursue sustainable growth, which ensures benefits for consumers, businesses, local people and the environment.

I believe we are now showing the kind of leadership befitting an industry that can generate growth, jobs, prosperity and sustainability at both global and regional level, like no other industry on this planet.

But, leadership comes with responsibility. The world is changing dramatically. Global economies are shifting, populations are growing, social classes are fluctuating and the world’s wealth is being redistributed.

Consequently, there will be a shift in the ‘world order’ of travel and tourism. Engaging with policy-makers from governments and international organisations needs to be the key mission. Getting our message across is vital.

But we cannot do this alone.

It does not matter who leads and who follows, but it is vital that private and public sector come together to speak and that all sectors of our industry unite, so that our messages coalesce and we state our case in terms which make governments and world leaders sit up and listen.

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