Exploring the effects of the global economy on the future of the travel industry


The future of the global economy is a significant topic for debate and discussion at World Travel Market 2008 (WTM). Thursday, November 13 will play host to the WTM Global Economic Forum providing senior travel and tourism executives with an in-depth look at the state of the global economy moving forward into 2009-2010.

Deutsche Bank Group chief economist Professor Dr. Norbert Walter will give a keynote address, followed by a series of insightful presentations from leading travel industry economics experts including Jean Claude Baumgarten, president and COO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC); Senior Airline Industry consultant John Strickland and chairman of Oxford and Tourism Economics John Walker. The event will be chaired by former economics journalists and BBC broadcaster for Today and Newsnight Peter Hobday.

Examining several themes, the main question the forum will investigate and seek to answer – is the industry at a crossroads? As more and more countries around the world start to catch the recession cold, what does this signify for the travel industry; will it become a period where only the best equipped and prepared survive? The WTM Global Economic Forum panel will aim to answer these important questions.

Drawing on his experiences as the chief economist Deutsche Bank Group over the past 15 years, keynote speaker Professor Dr. Norbert Walter will provide participants with the general picture of the global economy in the near future. Professor Walter commented, “All major economies are facing downside risks to growth and upside risks to inflation, but dynamics differ widely. The US economy is growing well below its potential due to the sub-prime crisis and several European countries are on the brink of a recession due to necessary corrections in their construction and real estate sector. The emerging markets are holding up surprisingly well, but very high inflation necessitating higher interest rates is dampening growth. Rich commodity exporting countries will balance downward tendencies. Their economic weight, however, is too small to avoid a continued downswing in 2009.”

Forum chair Peter Hobday will host the conference evoking debate and putting questions to the expert panel to discuss and deliberate providing valuable insight for participants. “As a global economy, we are currently facing a critical moment, looking at the headline news – energy prices are rising, there are fears of a global recession, stock markets continue to suffer – this all feeds on investor pessimism and the credit crunch has encouraged bankers to proceed with caution with investing in anything risky. Anyone in the travel industry – airlines, hotels, resorts, tour operators and the supplier interests that rely on them – is at some kind of tipping point. Now is the time when only the fittest survive… but what is it that you need to face these problems, to make sure you are fit enough not just to survive but maybe even to prosper? Those are the questions we will be debating with leading industry and financial personalities at the WTM Global Economic Forum. The aim is more than just discussion; we will be looking for practical advice and solutions.” said Forum chairman, Peter Hobday.

Providing the statistics and hard numbers, Oxford Economics and Tourism Economics chairman John Walker will take audience members through the economic outlook of the industry, examining the forecasted future trends. “As the economies of Europe and America face continued headwinds in the forms of inflation and weak consumer demand, the travel industry faces renewed challenges. However, we believe there are some unique opportunities to increase market share within the current environment by focusing strategically on key markets. I am excited about the opportunity to share some of the latest research on the prospects for travel growth over the coming year. These will hopefully serve as guideposts to WTM attendees as they consider their market strategies for 2009 and 2010,” said John Walker.

Looking at the current state of the airline industry, John Strickland will outline the links between the industry and its current challenges, with relation to the effects this infers on the global economy. “There has never been a more pertinent time to look at the airline industry in the wider global economic context. Airlines play a growing and essential role in the functioning of modern day economic activity worldwide. Not only do they facilitate face-to-face business contact, essential for breaking down cultural and communication barriers and building trust, but they bring an enormous tourism boost to many parts of the world, creating many thousands of jobs which would otherwise not exist. Yet against this background, airlines are struggling with rising fuel prices, slowing demand and increasingly vocal criticism of their environmental credentials. There has to be a rationale debate, which recognizes that airlines are not an ‘optional extra’ in today’s world, while working constructively to ensure that they can make an increasing contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” John Strickland recommended.

Rounding out the panel, representing the collective voice for business leaders in the travel and tourism industry on all matters related to travel and tourism, president and COO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Jean Claude Baumgarten will challenge the figures and statistics presented providing insight into what they signify for the industry as a collective. Jean Claude Baumgarten remarked, “Despite the deterioration of the economic environment over the past twelve months and the inevitable impact this has had on short-term tourism demand, as reflected in our latest research, the long-term growth prospects for travel and tourism remain good. It is critical for governments to recognize this growth potential and, more importantly, travel and tourism’s ability to generate employment and prosperity. It is certainly not the moment for governments to impose unfair taxes on the industry in an effort to alleviate their own financial difficulties.”

Taking place in Platinum Suite 4, the forum will run over two hours beginning at 11:00 hrs. Professor Norbert Walter, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Group and head of Deutsche Bank Research, will give a keynote address followed by three detailed presentations from the expert panel – John Walker, chairman of Oxford and Tourism Economics; John Strickland, senior airline consultant and Jean Claude Baumgarten, president and COO, World Travel and Tourism Council. Chaired by Peter Hobday, a question and answer session will follow the presentations.

Early bird rates of £59 are available to book now at www.wtmlondon.com/gef . After September 30, the rate of £79 will apply and on the door admission will be charged at £99. For more information and details about the full WTM Seminar, conference and events program visit www.wtmlondon.com .