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The Current State of The Travel & Tourism Industry

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By David Scowsill, WTTC’s President and CEO

Travel & Tourism, one of the world’s largest industries, outperformed the global economy in 2012 and grew faster than many other notable industries such as manufacturing, financial services, communications and retail. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) economic research, in 2012, Travel & Tourism grew its total contribution to GDP by 3% to US$6.6 trillion in GDP (a rise of US$500 billion year-on-year) and increased its number of jobs by five million to 260 million. For the first time, one in every 11 jobs in the world is now supported by Travel & Tourism.

WTTC is predicting the Travel & Tourism industry will expand its total contribution to GDP by 3.2% in 2013, faster than the 2.4% predicted for global economic growth. The industry is expected to support nearly 266 million jobs this year and again outperform many other industries.

The importance of Travel & Tourism as a tool for economic development and job creation is clear. However, this growth will not happen magically – and less restrictive visa regimes and a reduction in punitive taxation policies would help the industry contribute even more to broader economic development and would meet the clear and rising demand for international travel. Whilst it’s recognised that countries have genuine concerns about safety and border sovereignty, there are many ways in which governments can support more efficient travel without compromising national security.

In May 2012, WTTC and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) engaged in a study on the impact of visa facilitation on job creation across the G20 countries, which provided the data needed to press the arguments for action. The findings showed that of the 656 million international tourists who visited G20 countries in 2011, 110 million needed a visa, while millions more were deterred from traveling by the cost, waiting time and difficulty of obtaining a visa. The joint research highlighted that the facilitation of tourist visas to G20 countries from some of their fastest growing source markets could generate an additional US$ 270 billion in international tourism receipts and create more than five million additional jobs in the G20 economies by 2015. It also showed that visa facilitation has historically increased international tourist arrivals of affected markets by 5-25% following the implementation of policy changes.

All countries need to realise that the potential for developing their economies through Travel & Tourism can take place alongside their needs for border security. Concerted action from countries like India, China, the UK, US and Russia would start a domino effect of removing these constraints worldwide. Facilitating visas for tourists, particularly from some of the world’s fastest growing source markets such as the BRICs, could stimulate demand, spending and ultimately create millions of new jobs in the G20 economies.

Strategies for visa facilitation include investments in more streamlined processes, improved delivery of information, development of technological solutions (such as eVisa programmes) and cooperation and collaboration with neighbouring regions. The Schengen visa area is a great example of this and we encourage the steps that are being taken towards regional visa integration in other parts of the world, such as the recently announced single visa for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia.

WTTC campaigns for Governments to implement policies, which support the growth of Travel & Tourism through the creation of a competitive business environment. Despite challenges to economic growth, the Travel & Tourism industry is still expected to be one of the world’s fastest growing sectors. But it must have clear support from governments, if its full potential to create jobs, increase exports and stimulate investment is to be realised. In fact, the impetus lies with Governments to ensure that their policies specifically pave the way for companies to offer services to consumers without burdensome bureaucracy.

WTTC believes that the most appropriate way to reap the enormous economic and social benefit that Travel & Tourism brings is to develop sensible policies in the fields of liberalising Air Services Agreements to create open skies between countries and within regional bloc, repatriation of finance and a reduction in red tape.

Sustainability is also a big issue for the Travel & Tourism industry. Over the past two decades, the industry has made significant steps towards improving environmental impact and community engagement but these approaches now need to be incorporated into core business models. To achieve this, the industry has to make itself accountable and measure and openly report the impacts of its operations. This also requires investment in new research and development. WTTC – together with the International Tourism Partnership and a working group of industry members – has launched the Hotel Carbon Measurement Index (HCMI) and a growing number of hotels are now using it to report their carbon emissions but this industry-led approach needs to spread further. Last but not least, work needs to be done to attract people to work in the industry to ensure that Travel & Tourism has the necessary talent to make positive contributions to the economy and society in the future.

The subject of WTTC’s forthcoming Global Summit in Abu Dhabi (9-10 April) is “A Time for Leadership”. The Summit will explore the implications of our dramatically changing world economy and growing population on the Travel & 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 one billion tourists.

WTTC has recently launched a coalition of industry associations including IATA, CLIA, PATA, ASTA, USTA, UNWTO, with the aim of sharing research and ‘messaging’, tackling governments together on issues such as taxation and visas with a united industry voice. This is critical globally, as our fragmented industry is still poor at lobbying governments on key issues, certainly compared to banking or automotive sectors.

There is no disputing that the Travel & Tourism industry is a vital driver of the world’s economy. However, everyone working in the industry needs to play their part in communicating that message. Our messages need to coalesce and we need to state our case in terms, which make governments and world leaders sit up and listen. We call on all sectors of our industry to come together to do this with “One Voice”.

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