Leaders of the WTTC Global Summit on Keys to Resumption of Travel

More than 600 leaders from the travel industry, government, private sector and media gather in Cancun for the World Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, the organization’s first in-person event since 2019. Thousands of people others participate online.

Throughout the first day of the sessions – with speakers ranging from outgoing WTTC Chairman and CEO and Hilton Chairman Chris Nassetta to incoming Chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation Arnold Donald and Airbnb Founder and CEO Brian Chesky – themes Common ground has emerged on 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 industry lost nearly $ 4.5 trillion and more than 62 million jobs were lost.

In her opening remarks, Nassetta urged her fellow travel leaders to work together to “propel the industry forward.”

Calling the rapid development of vaccines a “modern miracle,” Nassetta says the industry must now push for reopening, aided by technology.

“Our industry must lead the way in advocating internationally for open borders and common sense approaches to ensure security and consistency at every stage of the traveller’s journey as we move forward in this recovery. We can do it. We can open the borders. We can get people moving. We just have to be smart and coordinated in the way we do it, ”he says.

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

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

“I think diversity is more than the diversity of people. It also means the diversity of communities. It means expanding the economy to many more cities and communities all over the world, ”says Chesky.

And I think it’s a revolution in travel … that will rival modern aviation and the modern hotel industry … when all of a sudden people can travel anywhere … I think it will. ranges from people traveling to 20 destinations to people traveling everywhere.

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

During a panel discussion, Donald de Carnival called for a “one size fits all, science-based approach” to the policies of stakeholders in each country, such as ministries of health, transport services and sectors of the economy. tourism, and a country to create the necessary consistency for travelers. to feel safe.

Certares founder and CEO Greg O’Hara reiterated this sentiment, putting it in financial terms.

“What we’re looking for … is certainty. So whatever the friction cost of the trip – figure out what it is and be able to pay or not pay that friction cost, ”says O’Hara.

“But allow the certainty that the traveler can book, the traveler can plan, and businesses can meet that demand.”

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

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

“The health authorities are in the driver’s seat. We need to have a clear message from the World Health Organization that traveling does not bring any additional risk as long as you follow the rules.

But in a one-on-one interview, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis offered an alternative. Last week, the country began a phased reopening to international visitors, using a five-part plan that includes the requirement for vaccine proof or negative PCR testing.

“We say how we’re going to work… Once and for all, it’s our system. And then the pressure is on other governments to explain to their citizens why they are blocking the recovery, ”Theocharis said.

He says Greece has moved from a risk management approach – the horizontal and geographic strategy that much of the world used at the start of the pandemic – to an individual risk-based approach that assesses the risk of each. individual traveler. Theocharis acknowledges that it took considerable work to create his country’s protocols, and that it has been even more difficult to implement them in port cities due to the complexity of dealing with cruise lines and airlines. port authorities, but he says these types of complications cannot stand in the way. recovery.

“To restart, we have to walk the march,” he said.

“You can’t restart by closing your eyes and wishing the problem was gone. The problem is still there, it cannot be denied. We can’t just say open tourism and it will work anyway. We must work to make this happen. ”

And during a panel on restoring travelers’ confidence, Fernando Valdes Verelst, Spain’s tourism secretary, said in May that the country will launch a digital certificate pilot program at its 46 airports and expects to open its borders. to international visitors in June.

And Marian Muro, general manager of Turisme de Barcelona, ​​says her city is working on developing new marketing content and new digital tools so that it is ready to welcome visitors.

“We were more concerned with promotion than promotion and management. We are now at the promotion and management stage and digital tools will help us. So, every time a visitor comes to Barcelona, ​​the visitor will be automatically connected to tools to help them know how many people are in an attraction or the security measures or if there is a queue. and come up with alternatives or tell the tourist to visit later, “she says.

“The city will accomplish two things: first, provide better service to these visitors, and second, provide a better quality of life for residents. “

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