Government AffairsClarity, certainty and collaboration are key, say leaders at travel's first major in-person event since the pandemic began.

WTTC Global Summit: The 3Cs for travel recovery

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Delegates said they are confident tourism is on the cusp of a dramatic rebound, but only after fear and uncertainty are removed.
Delegates said they are confident tourism is on the cusp of a dramatic rebound, but only after fear and uncertainty are removed. Photo Credit: WTTC

More than 600 leaders from travel, government, the private sector and media gathered in Cancun for the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Global Summit, the organisation’s first in-person event since 2019. Thousands more participated online.

Throughout the first day of sessions — with speakers ranging from outgoing WTTC chair and Hilton CEO and president Chris Nassetta to incoming chair and Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, and Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky — common themes emerged about what it will take for the industry to emerge from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the WTTC, in 2020 the global travel and tourism sector lost almost US$4.5 trillion with more than 62 million jobs lost.

Opening ceremony at the WTTC.
Opening ceremony at the WTTC. Photo Credit: WTTC

In his opening remarks, Nassetta urged fellow travel leaders to collaborate to “propel the industry forward".

Calling the fast developing of vaccines a “modern miracle,” Nassetta said now the industry must push for reopening, aided by technology.

“Our sector needs to lead the way in advocating internationally for the opening of borders and common sense approaches to ensure safety and consistency at every step of the traveller journey as we progress through this recovery. We can do this. We can open borders. We can get people moving. We just have to be intelligent and coordinated in how we do it.

“It’s going to be important that we work together with countries and with the private sector all over the world to bring it to life with existing tech we have and with new technology solutions where we need them.”

Later in the day, in a taped interview, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky echoed that need for collaboration and announced the company now has agreements with more than 100 destination marketing organisations across more than two dozen countries. The partnerships are part of an initiative Airbnb launched in June 2020 to support local economic recovery efforts with a focus on rural communities.

“I think diversity is much more than diversity of people. It also means diversity of communities. It means spreading economics to many more towns and communities all over the world,” Chesky said.

"And I think this is a revolution in travel... that will rival modern aviation and the modern hotel industry... when suddenly people can travel anywhere... I think it’s going from people traveling to 20 destinations to people traveling everywhere.”

Leaders are calling for a clear message from the World Health Organization saying that travelling do not bring additional risks if rules are complied with.
Leaders are calling for a clear message from the World Health Organization saying that travelling do not bring additional risks if rules are complied with. Photo Credit: WTTC

Consistency, not confusion

But many speakers expressed concern that lack of consistency and clarity in messaging is hampering the recovery in markets around the world.

During a panel discussion, Carnival’s Donald called for a “science-based, uniform approach” in policies from stakeholders within each country, such as health ministries, transportation departments and tourism sectors, and from one country to create the consistency that is needed for travelers to feel secure.

Certares founder and senior managing director, Greg O’Hara reiterated that sentiment, putting it in financial terms.

“What we are looking for... is certainty. So whatever the friction cost is of travelling — understanding what that is and being able to either pay or not pay that friction cost,” O’Hara said.

“But allow certainty so the traveller can book, the traveller can plan and the companies can service that demand.”

And Rita Marques, Portugal's tourism secretary, said the travel and tourism industry must push global health leaders to provide clarity.

“We still have a huge barrier to overcome — it’s the perception of the risk,” Marques says.

“Health authorities are in the pilot seat. We have to have a clear message from the World Health Organization saying that travelling doesn’t bring any extra risk as long as you comply with the rules.

WTTC research shows this crisis has been 18 times worse than the 2008 financial crash, said WTTC President & CEO, Gloria Guevara.
WTTC research shows this crisis has been 18 times worse than the 2008 financial crash, said WTTC President & CEO, Gloria Guevara. Photo Credit: WTTC

Is Greece's reopening model the answer?

But in a one-one-one interview, Greece tourism minister Harry Theoharis offered an alternative. Last week the country began a phased reopening for international visitors, using a five-part plan that includes requiring proof of vaccine or negative PCR test.

“We are saying how we are going to work... Once and for all this is our system. And then the pressure is on the other governments to answer to their citizens why they are blocking the recovery,” Theoharis said.

He added Greece has moved away from a risk management approach —the horizontal, geographical strategy that much of the world used early in the pandemic — to an individual risk-based approach that assesses the risk of each individual traveller. Theoharis acknowledged it has taken substantial work to create his country’s protocols, and has been even more difficult to implement them in port cities due to the complexity of dealing with cruise lines and port authorities, but he says those types of complications cannot stand in the way of recovery.

“In order to restart, we have to walk the walk,” he said.

“You cannot restart by closing your eyes and wishing the problem away. The problem is still here, we cannot deny it. We cannot just say open tourism and it will work any way. We have to work to make it happen.”

And during a panel on rebuilding traveller confidence, Fernando Valdes Verelst, Spain’s tourism secretary, said in May the country will do a pilot programme of a digital certificate in all 46 of its airports and expects to open its borders to international visitors in June.

Marian Muro, director general of Turisme de Barcelona, added that her city is working to develop new marketing content and new digital tools so it will be ready to welcome visitors.

“We had been more concerned about promotion than promotion and management. Now we are in the stage of promotion and management and digital tools will help us. So whenever a visitor comes to Barcelona, the visitor will be automatically be connected to tools to help them know how many people are there in any attraction or the safety measures or whether there is a queue and offer alternatives or will tell the tourist to visit later,” she says.

“The city will accomplish two things — first to give a better service to those visitors and second to give a better quality of life to residents.”

Adding to the Global Leaders Dialogue is Colombian vice minister of tourism, Julián Guerrero Orozco, who warned against the prolonged use of ‘health passports’ — which could become a real barrier to travel when first and second class travellers emerge.

Source: Phocus Wire

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