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Call for political support for global tourism

Apr 07 2016 16:29
Carin Smith

Dallas – The global travel and tourism industry needs support at the highest political levels to tackle its four major challenges, Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UNWTO, said at the global summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which is being held in Dallas.

He said in 2015 there were 1 185 million international travellers in the world, about 50 million more than in 2014. Travel and tourism make up about 9% of the world’s gross domestic product and the industry is responsible for one out of every 11 jobs in the world.

According to Rifai, the three biggest challenges the industry faces are safety and security threats leading to the risk of barriers to travel; the tech revolution which has changed the industry and empowered consumers; and the charting of a course for the industry's sustainable development.  

A fourth challenge, said Rifai, is underestimating the real impact of the travel and tourism industry and, therefore, what it really is about on a macro-economic level.

“These global challenges require global solutions,” cautioned Rifai. “Governments must engage with the private sector and think out of the box.”

He believes that in order to handle the estimated 1.8bn international travellers by 2030, the industry would have to invest in infrastructure, human resource development – especially of the youth and women – and secure, safe and seamless travel as well as cooperation on sustainable developmental goals.

For Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide, the travel and tourism industry plays a major role in all three of the world's current big systemic issues. These are a need for economic growth, the need to address unemployment – especially among the youth – and security threats.

“For the travel and tourism industry to succeed, it must all start ‘at the top’. A great destination means nothing if people do not know about it,” said Nassetta.

In his view, certain measures must be taken to facilitate travel. These include smart visa applications, infrastructure to create mobility, a regulatory environment which enhances the industry (no over-taxing, for instance), safety and the realisation that tourism is all about people.

“The travel and tourism industry is one of the greatest job creators in the world. The industry is expected to create about 75 million new jobs over the next 25 to 30 years – especially for young people,” said Nassetta.

“The industry has great potential to do much more, and for this we in the private sector must work with the public sector to face the challenges and use the opportunities.”

* Fin24 is a guest of the WTTC at its global summit.

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