WTTC Summit puts tourism in spotlight

WTTC president David Scowsill addresses the Global Summit

WTTC president David Scowsill addresses the Global Summit

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) 13th Global Summit is well underway in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and Etihad Airways are the official hosts of this annual gathering of travel and tourism leaders.

Co-hosted by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Etihad Airways, the Global Summit is being held in Abu Dhabi’s five-star Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.

Here are some key highlights so far from the two-day event, which concludes later today (April 10):

Travel is a way of life

The opening keynote address was made by WTTC president David Scowsill, who said: “Travel is a way of life and even in the toughest times, it continues to be a priority for populations around the world.

“Travel and tourism drives economies and creates jobs; and even in challenging economic times, it still has the potential to grow, as consumer appetite for travel beyond national borders remains insatiable.”

Scowsill said: “The 2013 WTTC Global Summit will explore the implications of our dramatically changing world economy and growing population on the tourism industry.

“Four months after the world celebrated its one billionth international traveller, it will examine what we need to do collectively to prepare for the next billion.”

Aviation Industry support

Speaking at the event was International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh, who has emphasised the need for UK government to support the aviation sector in the country.

“Governments need to understand they must reduce the impact on aviation. This can be through the reduction of regressive taxation on our industry, such as Air Passenger Duty, or by allowing the development of suitable infrastructure,” he explained.

Walsh was quick to compare the situation in the UK with that of Abu Dhabi, where flag-carrier Etihad Airways has seen remarkable growth over the past decade.

He added: “The conditions here in Abu Dhabi have allowed the carrier to develop, but we are able to compete financially, we are confident in our model.”

Walsh added he would not be “banging his head against the wall” with regard to development at London Heathrow Airport. Instead IAG would seek to expand its operations at London Gatwick and London City airports.

Britain ‘losing ground’ with visa access

Following the Summit, Walsh also pointed to a problem with visa access to the UK, arguing other countries would likely launch retaliatory regulations if it was not made easier to get into the country.

“Britain needs to realise it is losing ground, and quite quickly. If the government does not move, others will likely retaliate, which is quite understandable,” he said.

“I see a lot of concern, particularly from emerging markets, that it is tough to do business in the UK.”

Future industry trends

The ageing population, an increasingly connected society and fluctuating economic conditions are three major factors that will set future trends in the global travel and tourism industry, according to industry leaders.

Other factors include the growth of the middle class with its increased disposable income; and the emergence of a new generation that prioritises travel and cares for its environment.

Professor Ian Goldin

Professor Ian Goldin

Professor Ian Goldin, director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, commented during his conclusions to the ‘The Global Context’ at the Summit: “The trends of the future will be demographic, economic and ecological, globalisation is the most progressive, powerful force we’ve ever seen, but it needs to be managed”.

Mega trends changing customer needs

According to Dr Stelter, senior partner and managing director, The Boston Consulting Group there will be some ‘mega-trends’ shaping the industry.

“The Travel and tourism mega-trends that will impact the industry are changing customer needs because of an ageing population; the shift to RDE; further globalisation; and more convenience and time compression,” he said to a packed auditorium.

There will be hurdles thrown up by mobility, infrastructure challenges and energy scarcity; new technology and increased intermediation, he explained.

Tourism a force for change

Former President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation delivered the keynote address at the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit 2013.

In a wide ranging speech Clinton emphasized the transformative power of tourism as a force for good in the world.

“I am fundamentally optimistic about the power of tourism to change the world,” he said told delegates.

“As the leaders of this industry, you have a great deal of responsibility to use this power.”

Clinton also urged the hotel industry specifically to develop internship programmes in every country in which they operate, so that young people have an accessible means of experiencing another culture from an early age.

Linking into the issue of sustainability, which is a key focus for the Clinton Foundation, he believes that the industry is also a force for change in the future.

“I predict that we over the next 20 years the travel and tourism industry will lead a re-examination of our energy industry policies.

“The fact that you have such a great stake in a global stable environment gives you enormous credibility.

“I believe that by simply expanding tourism and in ways that are promote sustainability, this reminds people of our common humanity.

Other Summit speakers included more than 40 leading public figures, including Sir David Frost, British journalist and media personality, Daryl Hannah, American actress and activist, Sir Jonathon Porritt, environmentalist, David de Rothschild, adventurer and environmentalist, David Scowsill, WTTC president, and James Hogan, chief executive, Etihad Airways.