The host nation of a new international tourism forum says the event will help forge how the tourism sector emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic with a more sustainable future.
The Portuguese town of Evora will play host to the first A World For Travel summit in November, which organisers hope will emulate Davos, the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Speaking at the official online launch on Thursday, Rita Marques, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, said creating partnerships both within and outside the travel industry would be key for the future of the sector.
“I believe the Evora Forum will be a huge success,” she said. “I believe it will be a real think tank opportunity to invite all the global tourism leaders to discuss tomorrow’s tourism.”
The Evora Forum will take place on November 5-6 with delegate places limited to 500. It will feature key main stage plenary sessions and a series of group sessions dedicated to specific topics.
Marques is also confident that Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the EU internal market, will accept an invitation to hold a summit of European tourism ministers at the Evora Forum.
She said joint cross-border initiatives will be vital to reform and reinvent travel post COVID-19, adding: “We believe the commission should have a co-ordinated approach for the tourism sector.
“We know some members states have been affected more than others, but we believe the commission should play a role promoting a harmomised approach to tourism and also in communicating information to tourists.”
Marques said Portugal’s approach to developing tourism has put partnerships at the heart of its strategy with public and private stakeholders working together.
She said the country has been successful in promoting all regions of Portugal to visitors and developing its tourism sector in a world-leading sustainable way.
“The reason we have been so successful is we have been relying on very valuable partnerships. This has been done with public and private agents. We try to involve everyone,” she said.
Marques added Portugal was ready to open its doors once European travel is allowed and lockdowns are eased, having brought in new sanitation protocols and health and safety measures.
And she said the country has been working on its sustainable tourism strategy since 2016, which has put it at the fore of destinations in developing the tourism offering for the future.
“Sustainability has been our core strategy for a long time. We have outlined a strategy aimed to reform tourism as a tool for economic, social and environmental development in Portugal, Europe and the world.
“We have very clear priorities on enhancing knowledge and this forum will also contribute to this priority. We know we can only manage what we know.
“This tourism strategy values all territories, boosts the economy, enhances knowledge and generates connectivity among several geographies and for that reason Portugal is an excellent place to welcome this Evora Forum.”
Luís Araújo, president of Visit Portugal, said it would be an honour to host the first Evora Forum.
“It is a challenge, especially facing what we are facing during these recent months. But it is an honour because Portugal is an example of sustainability in tourism.
“We want to grow but also address concerns about the environment and people. We must focus on our citizens and also on the workers in the tourism sector. This will be a very challenging event where all subjects will be welcome. It’s important for us having a place to discuss whether tourism is a victim or a villain because this is the only way we move forward.”
General secretary of the Evora Forum, Christian Delom, said the idea was first formulated before the Covid-19 pandemic but that the crisis has emphasised the need to hold such an event.
He said it was urgent to overcome the twin dangers of “travel bashing” endangering the future of the sector and the real and sometimes negative impact the sector can have on destinations and the environment.
“For too long we have summarised and explained tourism activity in economic figures,” he said. “The bigger it is, the more beautiful it is. The more well-known it is, the more people visit it.
“This paradigm is shattered when the Covid-19 crisis reminds us that human activity is more fragile when it is concentrated.
“The idea of the voyage is written in the reptilian brain of Homo Sapiens and the desire to travel will remain intact. That is the good news.
“But there is other good news. Changes will be demanding and thanks to this transformation tourism will come out stronger. We can’t let the general bashing dictate the future of the travel industry.”
The Evora Forum is partnering with the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council, which was set up by Travel Weekly parent Jacobs Media Group in 2016.
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