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WTTC: What President Obama did not say about US travel and tourism

Apr 06, 2016

The World Travel & Tourism Summit President & CEO, David Scowsill, opened WTTC today. Here we share his opening speech in text and in video.

Secretary Pritzker, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to Dallas. And welcome back to the United States for the first time since we were in Las Vegas in 2011.

That gathering was instrumental in providing the international perspective on the post 9/11 Travel & Tourism landscape in this country. The “lost decade” of economic growth. The visitors who didn’t visit. The jobs which weren’t created. The 600 billion dollars lost to the US economy in 10 years.

The Global Summit in Vegas represented a tipping point. The culmination of years of effort by CEOs in this room, supported at the right time by global pressure to produce a big impact. This was public private sector cooperation at its best.

Within 12 months, Brand USA became fully active and the National Travel & Tourism Strategy had been created. President Barack Obama signed the Executive Order, announcing new initiatives to significantly increase the numbers of visitors coming to the United States.

Since these changes, the US has received some $30bil extra in international tourist receipts.

I remember watching his address. The tone was different. The words were different. He had got the message. He understood.

What the President did not say is that the US is the world’s largest Travel & Tourism economy, contributing a total of 1.4 trillion dollars and 13.5 million jobs. It far outstrips the size of China, Germany, Japan and every single G20 country.

The world needs a prosperous US Travel & Tourism sector, for it accounts for one in every five dollars created by our sector worldwide. And as the country came out of the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the economic contribution from the additional visitors generated more jobs, more investment, and more visitor dollars.

So we are back in the United States to explore how we look up beyond our usual operating horizons to Travel Beyond Boundaries. Another global financial crisis is on the horizon. Negative interest rates. Plunging commodity prices. Unimaginably low oil prices. The risk of sovereign debt defaults. Deflationary forces. Competitive monetary policy. The slowdown in China.

But look how we can thrive on disruption. We gather here in Dallas to touch the foundation stone of the global low-cost airline industry. Less than 10 miles from here Southwest Airlines moved beyond tried and tested business models, and provided the blueprint for great low-cost travel.

And new boundaries are being pushed with the rapid rise of the sharing economy. Social media. Digital disruption.

Less than ten years after being founded, Airbnb is valued at 25 billion dollars – or about the same as Starwood and Intercontinental Hotels group combined – yet it doesn’t own a single hotel room.

Uber is valued at around 60 billion dollars, even before it moves into deliveries – yet it does not own a single car.

Both of these businesses are disrupting the status quo, driven by great product, technology, consumer need and convenience.

In the realms of science and technology we reach out beyond any understanding of our ancestors, to embrace a new era of robotics and automation.

We live in an ever-connected world, brought closer by technology, multi-platform media, binding trade agreements and the sheer speed of travel.

That same connectivity sees us witnessing the migration of peoples, on a scale not seen for decades.

Navigating our way through and beyond the complexities of mass migration, embracing the possibilities while acknowledging the concerns, will be the urgent task of our global leaders now and in the years ahead.

And boundaries are being breached in new arenas of combat. In our data dependent world, new battlegrounds are being drawn up. Strategies on security and data protection are being redefined. Cyber terrorism is the new theatre of war.

Yet even cyber terrorism is shaded by the dark random brutalities of physical terrorism: from Paris to Palmyra – from Cairo to California.

We have to prevent an over-reaction from governments, who are wrestling with the question: “how can we keep our borders safe, while keeping those same borders open to travelers and tourists?”

We addressed this topic yesterday in a Ministerial Dialogue with some of our Members, laying out a blueprint for how we can work together to stop the borders being closed.

We call upon the world’s leaders to improve radically international intelligence and security agency cooperation. Many attacks are perpetrated by home grown terrorists. Closing our borders and jeopardizing our freedom to travel is not the solution.

Such political, social, and economic shifts undoubtedly give us enormous challenges, but they also offer up extraordinary opportunities. To harness our industry to this changing world. To influence it. To define it. To break boundaries.

For the world needs a thriving, prosperous Travel & Tourism sector.

Globally, this sector contributes $7.2 trillion annually, almost 10% of the world’s GDP, and supports one in eleven of all jobs on the planet.

We account for 6% of all exports and 4% of all investment.

But beyond economic arguments, there is the human side. Travel and Tourism brings people together. It puts a smile on people’s faces. It alleviates poverty. It provides employment across all levels of society, and in some of the most remote places on earth. It broadens horizons and breaks boundaries. Travel &

Tourism truly is a force for good in the world.

So, what's stopping us? What are the barriers to our ambition?

Some of these boundaries are very familiar to WTTC: our fight for Freedom to Travel in a safe and secure environment.

Our mandate to ensure that taxation is applied intelligently.

Our struggle for the right infrastructure.

Our focus to get the best talent into our businesses.

For these are critical issues, which drive our work to maximize the long-term sustainable growth of the sector.

Our relationship with UNWTO is the best example of public and private sector partnership, speaking with ‘One Voice’ delivering consistent messages.

Together with Secretary General Taleb Rifai, we have met with 82 Heads of State in the last four years, taking the message of the social and economic importance of our sector to the very people who make the decisions.

Together we launched the Global Travel Association Coalition to expand our influence with government, creating a unified plan with IATA, ACI, ICAO, CLIA, WEF and PATA.

This agenda prioritizes action on the four issues of greatest importance to our sector: Visas and security. Infrastructure. Sustainability. People.

Representing the private sector, WTTC is the global authority on Travel & Tourism. We communicate globally the critical issues for the industry at our Summits.

We are the voice of the industry in the media during times of crisis – reassuring consumers, calming stock markets, and providing historical perspective.

More than at any other time, the world needs organizations such as WTTC to provide leadership.

Ladies and gentlemen, if I had to focus our minds on just one issue it would be this:

The combination of global terrorism and an international refugee crisis is creating an unprecedented threat.

World leaders need to stand up together and to act now. And it is our role as Travel & Tourism leaders to make that happen.

No individual government or company knows all the answers. But together we do. Together we will continue to travel beyond boundaries.

Thank you

eTN is a media partner for WTTC.

WTTC: What President Obama did not say about US travel and tourism
David Scowsill, President & CEO, WTTC

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