WTTC yearly summit: how important is thee?

The World Travel & Tourism Summit’s (WTTC) yearly Global Travel & Tourism Summit, by pure coincidence, has become the ideal platform to discuss global travel and tourism’s most important subject of the day.

To find truth to this statement, one only needs to look at the last three editions of WTTC’s annual summit. In 2009, the World Travel & Tourism Summit’s yearly Global Travel & Tourism Summit, held in Florianopolis, Brazil, added a last minute topic to its program – discussion on swine flu, which was then the day’s most pressing issue. In 2010 in Beijing, China, WTTC was again faced with having to discuss the day’s most pressing issue – Iceland’s volcanic ash. And, this past May in Las Vegas, WTTC took on the crisis in Japan in a way that no other travel and tourism organization did, therefore, cementing its significant role in today’s global travel and tourism affairs.

WTTC has already long held a history of being a formidable forum to discuss travel and tourism’s most major concerns such as sustainable development, eco-tourism, poverty alleviation, environment, technology, innovation, to name just a few. The discussions on unprecedented issues such as the swine flu, impact of Iceland’s volcanic ash, and the Japan crisis, whether it be a last-minute addition to the program or not, has become an enormous incentive to attend the yearly summits. While there is no predicting what challenges may surface in the years to come, WTTC’s yearly summit can be counted on to provide an opportunity to discuss such matters.

This year’s summit in Las Vegas gave ample reasons to praise WTTC even further. For one, it was evident that WTTC is using its executives like never before. Chris Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, for instance, did a commendable job in moderating one of the sessions. Other members of the elite group of top travel and tourism executives also took on a more prominent role this year in some form or another — as moderators, speakers, panelists, or hosts. This dynamic at play makes WTTC an even more influential organization than it already is, because clearly its members are showing interest by being active throughout the summit.

Another indication of WTTC’s ascent to the top tier of travel and tourism organizations is the quality of its attendees in various capacities. Significantly, government officials are showing up. This year, high-level government officials from South Africa, the United States, and Mexico (including Mexican President Felipe Calderon) showed up in Las Vegas to support travel and tourism.

It is worth mentioning, however, that a delegate from Zimbabwe had expressed his dismay over the lack of focus on Africa. Aside from bagging two Tourism for Tomorrow Awards (The Conservation Award Winner went to Singita Pamushana from Zimbabwe and The Community Benefit Award Winner went to Guludo Beach Lodge from Mozambique) and a couple of panelists from Africa, there were indeed very little mentions of Africa during the summit.

There were communication issues regarding press conferences and other events as well. The mere fact that out of the thousands who attended, only five delegates participated in the post-conference tour of Las Vegas is a clear indication that there is room for improvement.

In its defense, WTTC couldn’t possibly please all aspects of the travel and tourism world in a day-and-a-half of discussions. Ultimately, WTTC has been upping the ante on its yearly summit, and this in itself is good enough reason to keep showing up.