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Green and Shared Growth in Aviation, Travel and Tourism

South Africa Minister of Tourism opens World Economic Forum Africa Pre-summit

May 08, 2011

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa Pre-summit was held in Cape Town, Africa, on April 28, 2011. Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism in South Africa and also Chairperson of the WEF Global Agenda Council for Aviation, Travel, and Tourism delivered the opening remarks for the event.
The Minister explained that tourism is a key pillar of the South African economic development strategy, and is recognized as such at the highest tiers of government.

“I am a firm believer in the value of these kinds of public-private partnerships. The travel and tourism sector in particular is a sector in which the public and private sectors simply cannot function in silos. Yet, in many countries and international institutions, the silo mentality persists, inhibiting the growth of our sector,” Minister Schalkwyk stated, “The same holds true for how we often fragment our planning in the aviation and tourism components of what is actually an integrated value chain.”

Minister Schalkwyk explained it is important to understand that fragmentation and silo thinking are not only the result of institutional failure at the level of multilateral governance, or of ignorance. Instead, fragmentation and silo thinking are directly linked to the heterogeneity of the sector as well as a peculiar industry structure.

The tourism component is characterised by a very large number of players operating in multiple market segments. Moreover, the tourism sector is dominated by small-, medium-, and micro-sized enterprises, with a few big operators at the top of the pyramid mostly calling the shots. And while the larger global players are linked institutionally through industry bodies such as the WTTC, it remains a challenge to forge truly inclusive institutional links with the proliferation of smaller players throughout the remainder of the value chain. The aviation component, on the other hand, is dominated by a relatively small number of commercial airlines – and is well organized in IATA – but is fairly poorly linked to their tourism counterparts as well as the “new model” airlines such as the low cost carriers.

Minister Schalkwyk continued: “Despite admirable efforts to enhance coordination, I believe the gaps between those global institutions representing industry in its different silos, and between industry and those multilateral institutions responsible for global governance, simply remain too large.

“Also within the United Nations (UN) family, I believe that silo-based thinking on aviation and tourism still is too deeply entrenched. Historically, aviation and tourism have been institutionalized and regulated in silos. This historical institutional architecture and the lack of dynamic interaction between UN agencies do not reflect the fundamental changes in tourism and aviation over the past few decades.”

The world of tourism today is a vastly different world than that of 1950, or even 1990. In 1950, there were 25 million international tourists; last year, there were 935 million; within a decade, this figure is forecast to increase to 1.6 billion. Of these, 378 million will be long-haul. The growth and internationalisation of tourism have thus created an umbilical cord between the aviation and tourism sectors. This challenges those in tourism to find new ways to organize its work – not only between industry bodies, but also by reforming and strengthening institutions for global governance, including in the UN.

“The way we reform, redesign, and enhance our collaboration should recognize that tourism and aviation depend on each other as well as on global conditions for their prosperity,” Minister Schalkwyk stated. Failure in one cluster has a massive impact on the system as a whole. For example, aviation and tourism are:

1.vequally affected by archaic global legal frameworks that govern the airspace and ownership of airlines;

2. equally vulnerable to terrorist attacks and political instability in tourist destinations, including the threat of cyber-terrorism (for example the sabotaging of air traffic navigation systems); pandemics like the H1N1 influenza, or natural disasters like the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption; and

3. equally exposed to global exchange rate volatility, rising oil prices, new security costs, external economic shocks like to the 2008/9 economic downturn, and non-tariff barriers like visa requirements, travel advisories and discriminatory travel taxes.

The case for a systemic view holds at a policy level, but also at an operational level. In the Web 2.0 Internet economy, aviation and tourism are linked through online travel information sources, social media and the mobile web, online booking and payment systems, and the increasing integration of the selling and managing of land and air transport, accommodation, tourist attractions and ancillary travel services.

“In the face of these challenges, and opportunities, we should break out of the silos at the political, policy and operational levels. The sector is in dire need of greater policy coherence and collaboration at a global level. We must find a way to get multilateral institutions, global industry bodies and private corporations and governments – who each has substantial contributions to make – to look beyond their partial views when they respond to climate change, trade negotiations, taxation and new security risks, and rather consolidate their respective inputs. If we fail in this task over the next few years, we will fail in giving the aviation and tourism sector an opportunity to speak and act with the political weight it deserves as the creator of one in every ten jobs globally [direct, indirect and induced jobs],” Minister Schalkwyk said.

Two particular challenges that should be addressed are social inclusion and climate change. Decent jobs must be created - and in the process build more balanced societies that include women as fundamental drivers of economic growth. In responding to climate change, tourisms need to forge much stronger cross-industry and public-private partnerships. Together, frameworks for implementing the technology and infrastructure needed to be put in place and air transport decarbonised. For tourism, there needs to be more collaboration across the value chain on creative innovations which can allow the whole sector to decarbonize.

Minister Schalkwyk continued, “Without sounding self-congratulatory as participants in the activities of the WEF, I think we can safely say that the WEF has managed to create one of the few platforms that break out of the historical institutional and mental silos. Through the work of the Aviation, Travel and Tourism Industry Council, the WEF has made major strides in gathering us all around the same table to discuss shared risks, and to explore the synergies that could help us to unlock shared opportunities. The most recent work on the transformation to a low-carbon sector, and the ongoing work programmes that underpin our excellent agenda for the remainder of today, testify to that.

“Over the next year, as an industry, we may want to consolidate these and other initiatives by working towards an Aviation, Travel and Tourism Low Carbon Manifesto that captures our shared vision and roadmap for green growth up to 2050.

“In conclusion, if we are serious about changing the policy and institutional landscape, the debate on breaking down the silos needs to be elevated to the next level. We need a serious discussion on the implications for UN reform, for example the strengthening of UN institutions and collaboration, but also for the way we position our issues in the G20 and elsewhere.

“We will have to work harder than ever to make ourselves heard; to make the world understand that the travel and tourism sector is an important vehicle to help achieve shared green growth. Aviation, travel and tourism can be decarbonised through balanced voluntary action, market mechanisms and regulatory incentives. This will not only contribute to 2050 climate targets, but will create decent jobs, attract socially responsible investment, and encourage entrepreneurs. It will also stimulate two-way trade, reduce poverty in developing countries, and strengthen rural economies.“

The G20 could respond by recognizing tourism as a key driver of green growth, infrastructure expansion, and job creation; by encouraging incentives for investment in the sector, for example for energy-efficiency retrofitting or renewable-energy roll-out for accommodation, increased fuel efficiency in transport, and intensified research for low-carbon aviation operations, as well as by reducing barriers to travel by avoiding discriminatory taxation.

These issues were high on the agenda when the T.20 tourism ministers, a ministerial platform inaugurated in South Africa last year, met in the Republic of Korea prior to the G20 Summit last year, and will be further pursued when the T.20 ministers are hosted by France, the incoming G20 President, later this year.

Minister Schalkwyk concluded his opening remarks saying, “I look forward to an afternoon of constructive, frank and open engagement in the Davos tradition as we brainstorm these issues, and particularly how we could unlock further opportunities on this continent of Africa – which is the theme of our next session.”

Professor Geoffrey Lipman, Chair of, was present at the WEF Africa Pre-summit, and had this to say to eTN: “They say that history is biography - if the industry succeeds in getting its message across to global policymakers about its pivotal role in the green growth agenda, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk will be one of the reasons why. In the past 3 years, he has been quietly working behind the scenes to put in place an industry G20 Strategy, an industry climate strategy, an industry sport and tourism strategy, and a cross-sector collaboration strategy.

“This WTTC/UNWTO [World Travel and Tourism Council/UN World Tourism Organization] event with President Zuma was not surprisingly linked to the Minister's Tourism Summit, which in turn was linked to the World Economic Forum's 2011 Africa Summit. This was not just coincidence; the Minister and his team never stop working for the good of their own industry, that of their region, and the global travel community. Most importantly, they never seem to lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, the real beneficiary will be the economy in general not just the narrow interests of our sector.”

Professor Lipman is Advisor to the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Advisor to the World Economic Forum, and Vice Chair of its Global Agenda Council (Aviation, Travel & Tourism). He is also Adjunct Professor at Victoria University Australia and Senior Tourism Research Fellow at George Washington University US.

South Africa Minister of Tourism opens World Economic Forum Africa Pre-summit
Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism in South Africa / Image via


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