The World Travel & Tourism Council’s 17th Global Summit in Bangkok, Thailand gathered together over 1000 public and private sector leaders from the international Travel & Tourism sector, Thailand. Participants included government ministers, the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, industry CEOs, and internationally recognized thought leaders in the fields of conservation, security, finance, and technology. As the flagship private sector event under the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the Summit centred around the theme of ‘Transforming Our World’ and how Travel & Tourism can maximize its contribution to sustainable development.
The wide ranging conversations covered a broad field of issues, but overarching themes emerged. All of them reflect that the world may be full of challenges and unpredictable developments, and in this context especially the sector needs to be proactive to change the future — both of the sector and the world as a whole. Identifying the issues is the first step, taking action is the necessary continuation. Here is what Travel & Tourism needs to embrace to transform our world:
Show leadership — stand up for the industry and beyond
The continued growth and development of Travel & Tourism needs leadership — and leadership that goes beyond talk. The challenges facing the world — climate change, security threats, social upheaval — are not easy ones to address. Without leaders, from the private as well as the public sector — standing up and setting an example, progress cannot happen as fast as it needs to. This also means that leaders in Travel & Tourism need to see their role in a wider context and take a stand on global issues that are of importance to the sector.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework under which businesses and leaders can contribute to a global effort. These objectives are challenging, but with strong leadership and committed action they will make a concrete difference to our world, and a global community which will in turn sustain the future of Travel & Tourism.
Be transparent, earn trust
Travel & Tourism is a force for good, but to be the best it can be the sector needs to be transparent and earn trust. This will require taking responsibility with well-defined commitments on issues including sustainability and using data and measuring to stay accountable. There are a range of challenges facing the sector which can be addressed by increased openness and sharing — freedom to travel, data sharing for security, environmental and social impact — but for these solutions to be successful people need to trust that systems are acting in their interests and using their information for the right purposes.
Recognize the individual
People want and need to be seen as individuals rather than being lumped into simple categories — whether they be customers, employees, visitors, hosts, leaders or someone else. The sharing economy and increased personalization of Travel & Tourism services is a part of this, with each person wanting their own, customized — or customizable — experience. But individuality is also becoming a growing element of leadership. People want to see their leaders as individuals, and expect them to take responsibility and respond to demands as such.
Balance the global and the national
Sentiments of populism and nationalism have taken the spotlight in many parts of the world over the past year, and Travel & Tourism needs to take these developments seriously, while not forgetting about the global nature of the sector. There is a danger that in some parts of the world the current mood tends towards closing borders and making travel more onerous. It’s important for businesses to recognize the issues and concerns behind these movements, but also show that open and free travel is a solution rather than an additional burden. To keep everyone engaged in this mission, the sector has to deal with local concerns that may complicate it, including challenges of overcrowding and destination degradation.
Look into the future
Success — and even survival — will depend on being prepared for what comes — whether they are forecasted developments or unpredictable events. The sector needs to continue to make improvements to accommodate the 1.8 billion international travelers that are expected to travel by 2030. This will require investment and infrastructure, but also open-minded approaches to the issue of overcrowding that some destinations are seeing. At the same time, Travel & Tourism needs to build resilience to be able to respond to and cope with the unexpected events and crises which look to stay a constant reality.
eTurboNews is a media partner for WTTC.