London, UK and Florianópolis, Brazil – “The worst virus is not that of swine flu – it’s the virus of pessimism,” HE Luiz Henrique da Silveira, Governor of the State of Santa Catarina, told assembled delegates at the Closing Session of the 9th Global Travel & Tourism Summit. “And I’m optimistic regarding the capacity of humankind to rise above all these challenges.”
Not surprisingly, the many challenges facing the Travel & Tourism industry worldwide, to which da Silveira was referring, weighed heavily on the proceedings of the Summit, held in Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina, from 14-16 May 2009.
The global economy is suffering the worst recession seen in 60 years and the impact of this and the market volatility unleashed by the economic and financial crisis has been compounded by the uncertain outcome of the current A (H1N1) influenza epidemic.Nevertheless, the Summit – under the theme ‘Real Partnerships: Energising Economies’ – started and ended on a strongly positive note.
Hosted by the Government of the State of Santa Catarina, the Ministry of Tourism of Brazil and EMBRATUR (the Brazilian national tourism institute), the meeting was honoured by the presence of Brazil’s President HE Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Opening the Summit, President Lula showed that he was one of the rare heads of state around the world who recognises Travel & Tourism’s significant contribution to international trade, employment and social inclusion.
“Given tourism’s dynamic catalytic effect on other sectors of the economy,” President Lula said, “the Brazilian Government is determined to join hands with this sector to reinforce its role in job creation and in achieving social goals through responsible growth policies.”
The support of Brazil’s President gave added impetus to the two days of intensive discussions and debate, which ended with a unanimous call for greater partnership and collaboration between the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and other international governmental and private sector organisations and associations, most importantly the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“We have a clear agenda for the future,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, President & CEO of WTTC. “Real partnerships can energise economies, so we now need to move forward and reinforce our collaboration for the benefit of our respective Members, the Travel & Tourism industry and our customers, the travelling public. “The wider Travel & Tourism Economy accounts, directly and indirectly, for more than 9% of global GDP, making it one of the most important economic sectors in the world,” Baumgarten added.”We have to concentrate on the fact that tourism means jobs,” said Taleb Rifai, Secretary General ad interim of UNWTO, “something that has not filtered down to the public consciousness. We need to connect the tourism industry to the lives of everyday people,” he added, “or we will be seen as a marginal industry.”Other key conclusions to emerge from the Summit were:
– Highlighting the advocacy role of WTTC, which organises the annual Summit, participants repeatedly stressed the need for all sectors of the industry from all regions of the world to speak with one voice – the only way of ensuring that Travel & Tourism will be seen as one industry and treated seriously by policy-makers.
– “The current crisis is not just an economic crisis but also – and more fundamentally – a crisis of confidence,” to quote HE Predrag Nenezić, Montenegro’s Minister of Tourism and Environmental Protection. “So the role of government is more critical than ever in making the operating environment more conducive to business and more attractive to investment to sustain business and consumer confidence,” Nenezić added.
– “The Travel & Tourism industry can be an accelerator of the economic recovery,” said Charles Petrucelli, President of Global Travel Services at American Express. “It can lead the recovery in terms of jobs and trade.”- Petrucelli also added: “Most governments do not realise the unintended consequences – on Travel & Tourism – of policies that are frequently related to other sectors or just a part of our industry.”
– “Travel & Tourism does not need bail-outs or subsidies,” said Ufi Ibrahim, WTTC’s Chief Operating Officer, author of the Summit programme and Master of Ceremonies of the event. “It needs policies – clear, consistent, transparent and long-term policies that support the industry and stimulate demand for Travel & Tourism.”
– “Governments should stop imposing unfair taxes on the industry,” said Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of VisitBritain, “as well as implementing unreasonable restrictions on travel.”Despite the inevitable cancellations due to concerns about the H1N1 flu epidemic in some countries, the 9th Global Travel & Tourism Summit attracted nearly 1,000 Travel & Tourism leaders from industry and governments, as well as the media, from 51 countries around the world.