The World Travel & Tourism Council – the voice of the world’s 100 foremost travel and tourism leaders – has called for the next British government to commit to informed policies that create the environment in which travel and tourism thrives. The call comes as the UK’s political parties unveil their manifestos this week ahead of the general election.
At a meeting of senior figures from the public and private sector today (April 15, 2010) in London, WTTC president & CEO Jean-Claude Baumgarten said: “The travel and tourism economy supports 3 million jobs in the UK, but if government policies do not change, employment growth will be slow – increasing by only 0.6 percent annually between now and 2020.” This is just half the rate of growth projected for European Union member countries overall and less than one quarter of the forecast world growth rate.
Travel and tourism does not necessarily need extra public funding, Baumgarten added”: “But it does need its government to ensure a level playing field to help it reach its full potential. At the time of a general election, WTTC would like to see informed policies, not vague promises from the parties. Industry players and their employees have the opportunity over the coming weeks to ask candidates about issues that can directly affect their livelihoods.”
The council and its members have identified three priority issues that the next UK government must address if visitor exports are to realize a potential 4.3 percent annual growth over the next decade.
• Visa pricing and processing
• Reducing or removing taxation
• Developing transport infrastructure
Baumgarten also drew comparisons to China, host next month of WTTC’s 10th Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Beijing, 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. The summit will welcome leaders from the private and public sector to explore the issues and ways forward to ensure a sustainable future for travel and tourism.
Currently seventh in the league table of countries with the highest visitor export earnings (i.e., inbound tourism spending), the UK could, with sufficient support, regain its position in the top five by 2020. New figures released today reveal a 4 percent increase in visits to the UK from overseas in the first two months of the year, worth £2 billion to the economy. WTTC’s own research confirms that the economic potential of travel and tourism cannot be ignored.
Baumgarten continued: “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 recognizing the potential of the industry to create jobs and support economies at all levels, the next government can maximize the return on the investment it is making. The UK’s visitor economy could have a bright future and make a significant contribution to the recovery promised by all parties, but it needs its government to establish policies that will enhance, rather than inhibit that growth.”