Overtourism: WTM attending Tourism Ministers discussed
Tourism ministers from across the world met hoteliers, tourist boards and trade associations at World Travel Market London – the leading global event for the travel industry – to tackle key issues such as overtourism and development.
The annual UNWTO and WTM Ministers Summit debated strategies to cope with overtourism, which is threatening the tourism trade in destinations such as Barcelona, Venice and Amsterdam.
Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary General, said there have been many protests against overtourism in 2017, with slogans such as “tourists go home” and “tourists are terrorists”.
“This is a wake-up call; we have to make decisions now,” he warned.
“We cannot continue to build five-star hotels in three-star communities.
“Jobs and charity are not enough – we need to diversify visitors’ activities, reduce seasonality and raise awareness of less busy destinations.”
Ministers also met industry leaders at WTM London’s first destination investment event, supported by UNWTO.
Called IHIF at WTM, it brought together the leadership of the International Hotel Investment Forum and WTM London’s expertise to create an exclusive platform for ministers and investors in travel destination development.
Keith Evans, Vice President Hotels for Starwood Capital, highlighted Greece’s potential, saying: “There’s a good strong fundamental tour infrastructure; Greece is setting itself up as a market that has an interesting few years ahead.”
Henri Wilmes, VP Hotel Acquisitions for London and Regional investors, said Mexico is another destination that investors are watching with interest.
“Mexico has done very well in positioning the country in terms of supply,” he told ministers and delegates.
“It’s amazing what this country has to offer. It has provided the necessary infrastructure, such as airports – that is vital for investment.”
• Elsewhere, leading travel industry figures spoke out against plans for a tourism tax in London.
Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, said a tourism tax would penalise UK visitors most – and the industry was already concerned about the burden of business rates and VAT.
Tom Jenkins, Chief Executive of Etoa, the European tourism association, added: “No city imposes a tourism tax unless it is absolutely desperate.”
• Tuesday’s proceedings started with another packed Speed Networking session, which proved useful for a variety of buyers and sellers.
Those taking part said they had made many useful contacts within a short space of time, which would be followed up during the rest of WTM London and beyond.
• Private jet flights could cost as little as €300 an hour using new technology that allows more efficient use of aircraft.
Vienna-based JetClass has developed software and artificial intelligence that allows it to track demand for ‘hot’ destinations and match them to private aircraft that are standing unused.
Wagas Ali, Chief Executive and Co-founder of JetClass, said: “We can offer seats comparable to or even cheaper than normal business class seats on the market.”
• The wellness market is developing more experiences for clients, as consumers are “more connected”, delegates heard at a wellness session.
“They are connected to their surroundings, and they collect stories; what they are really interested in is experiences,” said academic Dr Elina Michopoulou, Senior Lecturer in Business Management at Derby University.
She advised wellness firms to work with social media influencers and celebrities, noting that some had followings as large as the population of several countries put together.
• New European links and increased frequencies are on the cards, thanks to a tie-up between Air Madagascar and Air Austral.
Reunion airline Air Austral has taken a 49% stake in Madagascar’s flag-carrier in a deal signed last month.
Tony Randzavola, Area Manager for Air Madagascar, said: “Paris flights are twice-weekly at the moment and we plan to have four times a week. We’re working on it, and hope to do this by July 2018. After three years, we plan to open up new European routes. We have to see if it will be the UK, Germany or Italy.”
He spoke of three years of “recovery and restoration”, followed by the development of the fleet, with the priority being the restoration of the country’s domestic network.
• Two-thirds of consumers are prepared to pay more for responsible goods, according to statistics unveiled by research company Nielsen.
This figure is up from 55% in 2014 and 50% in 2013. Also, 73% of Millennials and Generation Z consumers are prepared to pay more for sustainable brands, compared to 51% of Baby Boomers.
• Reed Exhibitions, the organiser of WTM London, will host its inaugural ‘Proud Experiences LGBTQ+ Travel Expo’ at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London (6-8 June 2018).
The world’s first dedicated LGBTQ+ travel show will create a community of like-minded professionals from around the world, including buyers and travel suppliers.
It will feature a conference addressing major issues affecting the sector, and ‘LGBTQ+ Master Classes’ for buyers to learn about good business practice.
• Rotana Hotels & Resorts is marking its 25th anniversary by continuing its sponsorship of the registrations for next year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is also celebrating its 25th anniversary. ATM will be at Abu Dhabi World Trade Centre (22-25 April 2018).