Expert on the future gets questioned at WTTC summit

LAS VEGAS (eTN) – Dr. Ian Goldin is the director of Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, as well as a professional fellow at Balliol College. With such credentials, Mr. Goldin certainly has his fair share of speaking engagements at conferences and other events that entail discourses, hence his presence at the eleventh edition of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Global Travel and Tourism Summit.

Mr. Goldin spoke in great detail on what is to be expected in the future. However, I spotted a paradox during his speech, so when the opportunity to have a brief chat with him presented itself, I took it. The result is the conversation below:

eTN: You spoke about some very forward-thinking concepts during your speech and yet you made a comment that nobody saw the global economic meltdown coming. There is a bit of a paradox there.
IAN GOLDIN: There is. Yes.

eTN: How do you respond?
GOLDIN: I don’t think I or anyone can predict the future, but I think we can see some mega trends. I don’t know what the next crisis will be, but I do know that there is increasing systemic risks. We have to make sure globalization has changed, that big events and small events that happen in one place will impact in ripples across the world much more rapidly than ever before. I do know, for example, that the technology trends, that the demographic trends that I spoke about are gonna change in the sorts of ways that I outlined. So, there will be details which will be different. I don’t know what technologies there will be in five to ten years’ time, but I do know that pace of change of technology is accelerating. My focus is on the mega trends and providing flashes on the things that could happen, but I’d be the first to say that I expect a lot more surprises along the way.

eTN: You sum up the dilemma of so-called visionaries in that there is the vision, but in terms of these visions reaching fruition, that is the challenge, isn’t it?
GOLDIN: And timing. What the direct impact will be, etcetera. Just like climate change, we know that it is happening.

eTN: Do you agree with the words climate change?

eTN: It used be referred to as global warming. I travel quite often, so I know that climate changes every year – the four seasons. So, what I am seeing is what I can best describe as climate shift.
GOLDIN: Yes, I think you are right. The terminology can be confusing. What I believe is the pace of climate change; climate has always changed in long cycles. But what is happening is that long cycles are being compressed into very, very short cycles that will happen within our lifetimes — within the next 50 to 100 years. It’s the speed at which climate is changing and its implications that’s different.

eTN: From your perspective, what can you say about the revolutions calling for democracy in North Africa and the Middle East?
GOLDIN: I think it is tremendously a positive thing. People are basically asserting their rights and determination to have a say in their country’s future. Obviously, some worry about some of the things that are happening in the process. The religious conflicts in Egypt are very worrying, for example. The repression that is happening in Syria is really terrible. I think that there is real trauma that happens during these change periods, but the direction of change is a source of optimism. What’s interesting as well as is how it has been informed by the new media, for example. People are able now to learn and direct themselves in marches and demonstrations and learn what is happening in countries next door or elsewhere or what’s happening in other parts of the world because the state no longer controls the information. When people only have a newspaper and it was printed by the government, you only saw one glance in the world. Now with the social media and information flows, there has really been a way for individuals to make up their own mind as to what’s going on. Obviously, there is a war among the different information flows, but that is very important as well.

eTN: What is your take on the value of the US dollar and how it is being viewed by some to be losing its value?
GOLDIN: Are you asking me if the dollar will be weaker? One thing that economists always get wrong is predictions on currency, so if predictions are difficult, currency is much worse. So, let me not answer that question.

eTN: What do you expect to gain from your presence at this year’s summit?
GOLDIN: I’m enjoying this incredibly important industry — travel and tourism. I’ve learned a lot from other people, and hopefully by sharing ideas, the whole industry will move forward more effectively. It is a major creator of jobs, and it is a major creator of dynamism and economies. I hope also by people coming together.

eTN: Private and public.
GOLDIN: Very much so. I am enjoying participating in this meeting.