Last updated: 09:39 AM ET, Tue April 09 2013

WTTC’s Scowsill Issues Wake-Up Call for Travel & Tourism’s Future

Features & Advice | World Travel & Tourism Council | James Shillinglaw | April 09, 2013

David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in his closing speech at the 13th WTTC Global Summit in Abu Dhabi on April 10, called on governments and public companies to work together to ensure growth for the travel and tourism industry. “The private and public sector must come together and focus on long-term strategies, infrastructure and initiatives, not just short-term goals, to ensure that our industry is ahead of the growth curve" said Scowsill.

Scowsill said that by 2050 there will be 3 billion people enjoying middle-class wealth -- meaning more middle-class consumers enjoying more travel, creating more jobs and generating more gross domestic product (GDP). He said the growth opportunities ahead should be a wake-up call to the private and public sector to join together and plan sustainable, long-term strategies.

“The industry needs to work together to drive investment in infrastructure, which is conducive to sustainable growth, not just now, but for the next 10, 25, even 50 years in order to ensure that travel and tourism continues to make a vital economic contribution to global GDP and jobs and that the new wave of middle-class consumers from emerging markets can cross borders with ease,” Scowsill said.

WTTC forecasts that by 2023 travel and tourism’s total economic contribution will account for 10 percent of global GDP, $10.5 trillion, and one in 10 jobs. Total travel and tourism employment is forecast to add over 70 million jobs over the next decade, with two-thirds of those additional jobs in Asia. Asia will continue to lead growth of the industry, with annual average growth of over 6 percent.

The WTTC’s 13th Global Summit saw government ministers and public and private sector executives from all around the world come together in Abu Dhabi, April 9-10, to discuss the many issues and challenges facing  the industry in the immediate and long term. In his closing speech, Scowsill also explained that lobbying governments to stop seeing tourists as a soft target for generating revenue would remain a central strategic priority for the travel and tourism industry over the next year.

“WTTC will develop finance models over the next 12 months which will demonstrate, country by country, the negative economic impact on travel and tourism of punitive taxation on travelers,” Scowsill said. “This data will be used to show government leaders that taxing the tourist does not lead to positive economic growth — in fact, it leads to the opposite.”

Scowsill also said that visa facilitation would remain on its agenda for the next year. “Too many people still find it too complex and too difficult to cross borders as international tourists,” he said. “Governments need to balance security needs with a change in mindset and implement visa waiver and trusted traveler programs. The travel and tourism industry needs to continue to lobby for change and demonstrate to individual countries the economic opportunities, which will be generated, through improvements to visa processes.”

Scowsill also confirmed that WTTC will continue to campaign for more airline deregulation to allow carriers to operate more efficiently across national borders and provide greater choice to consumers. He also issued a rallying call to the 1,000 conference delegates asking them to show leadership to drive the vision for travel and tourism growth.

“The art of leadership is to create a vision, to embrace that vision and drive it to completion,” Scowsill said. “As leaders in our industry, we must continue to work together to drive our vision and to elevate the cause of freedom to travel, to influence policies for growth and boldly plan for a tourism for tomorrow. The message is clear going forwards. Travel and tourism has a vital role to play in shaping the future and the industry needs to be at the forefront of shaping that future.”

WTTC’s 13th Global Summit also featured a keynote speech from former U.S. President Bill  Clinton, who examined how tourism can be a force for good. His speech focused on the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti, rebuilding the island after the devastating earthquake in 2010, through private sector investment and job creation in order to create long-term, sustainable economic growth.

The Global Summit also focused on how the travel and tourism industry can prepare for the next 1 billion international travellers -- the new wave of middle-class consumers from emerging markets -- so that they can cross borders with ease and connect with other destinations efficiently. Speakers addressing that topic included Professor Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, who examined the economic trends, environmental developments and consumer patterns that can be expected in the future.

Other speakers included actress Daryl Hannah, an environmental activist; David de Rothschild, adventurer and environmentalist; and Laura Turner Seydel, chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation. They highlighted the environmental constraints that will challenge the sustainability of the industry in the future. Other speakers included Tony Tyler, director general and CEO for IATA; Richard Solomons, chief executive of Intercontinental Hotel Group; and Lee McCabe, head of travel at Facebook.

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