Focusing on the people behind the tourism numbers and maintaining an honest and open relationship with the media: these are among the main recommendations to emerge from discussions between media representatives and tourism officials attending the first UNWTO International Conference on Tourism and the Media (12-13 September, Zagreb, Croatia).
Under the title ‘Tourism in the Headlines’ and in partnership with the Government of Croatia and the World Federation of Travel Journalists and Writers (FIJET), the conference aimed to analyze the relationship between tourism and the media and address why, despite being one of the world’s largest economic sectors, tourism is not sufficiently featured in the political, business or financial news.
Opening the conference, Croatian Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, stressed the relevance of tourism as “an engine of economic growth and one of the most effective creators of new jobs,” pointing to the need to reflect this message in the media. This was further echoed by the Minister of Tourism of Croatia, Mr. Damir Bajs, who underlined the main aim of the conference: “to join forces and to try and find ways to give more media importance to such a significant global sector as tourism”.
Members of the print, digital and television media, including from CNN – the media partner of the conference – Time Magazine and Newsweek International, spoke on how to make tourism newsworthy. “The economic importance of tourism is very clear,” said CNN correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, delivering the keynote presentation. “But, in today’s 24-hour news cycle, if tourism wants to grab attention, it needs to move from the numbers to the people, as it is the people (behind the numbers) that make a story”.
“This is a two-way relationship,” said Mr. Rifai. “The media needs to acknowledge tourism, but we also need to listen to the media, speak its language, understand its needs and provide the human stories behind the facts and figures”.
The event was also an opportunity to hone the communication skills of tourism stakeholders, with presentations and debate on the communication strategies and practical tools available for getting their messages across to the media. Communications experts encouraged destinations to be open and honest with journalists in order to get their story out in an accurate and credible way.
The over 400 participants attending issued the Zagreb Declaration on Positioning Tourism in the Media, calling for a strong working partnership between tourism stakeholders and the media. Concrete recommendations include establishing an active dialogue between tourism administrations, the private sector and the media on global tourism development; improving access to quality information; and adopting the tools and technologies of the 21st century for communication in tourism.
During the conference, Ms. Kosor became the latest head of government to join the Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign, intended to rally support for tourism among world leaders. “Recognition among world leaders of tourism’s contribution to jobs, economic development and social empowerment is growing,” said Mr. Rifai. “We believe now is the time to do the same with the media, and this conference represents an important first step”.