Nuevo Mundo Expeditions attended the Global Summit organized by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this past week, on April 18-19. The event consisted of various presentations by leaders of the travel industry and key members of the WTTC. In addition, government representatives and delegates participated in the event, including former prime ministers and presidents such as José María Aznar from Spain and Laura Chinchilla from Costa Rica.
The conference can be summarized in three points:
- The role of technology
We live in a digital age where the use of mobile phones, tablets, apps and other gadgets is the norm. We book flights and tours online and search for travel advice in digital guidebooks and blogs. It is undeniable that technology shapes the way we do things. One important discussion in our industry is seamless travel and how to facilitate it. The implementation of biometric technology to passports, for example, will affect how we move in airports and cross borders. Technology can help airports be more efficient by simplifying the mobility of passengers, so instead of building another terminal or runway to serve the increasing number of travelers, they can reduce the time people spend in each step, saving money and providing a better experience. Imagine if you can go through security check and immigration in only 15 minutes, instead of the 1 or even 2-hour line that sometimes takes to arrive or leave a country. Imagine if you can have one single ID to process all of your transactions including banking, transport, shopping, travel and more. The technology is developing, but the legislation and political agreements need to move forward with the advances and work together to make this happen. For instance, it is no use to have biometrics in place if you cannot easily get a visa. Of course, cyber-security is a big concern and developers must address this issue.
- The socio-economic and environmental impacts of tourism
Tourism is an important income generator for the world, particularly in developing countries. It creates 1 out of every 5 new jobs and employs about 10% of the world workforce. Furthermore, sustainable tourism promotes the inclusion of local communities and vulnerable groups, like women, as well as the protection of the natural environment. In this sense, many companies and organizations support this responsible way of making business, which was showcased through the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Certainly, there are many challenges, such as managing crowds in sensible destinations and trying to disperse the visitors to lesser-known tourist attractions. Countries like Ecuador want to receive more international tourists and encourage domestic travel, which means improving infrastructure and thus creating an impact on the environment. There is also the issue of illegal wildlife trade and child/teenage abuse (sex tourism). On the positive side, tourism fosters tolerance, cultural appreciation and environmental awareness. Balancing the socio-economic benefits with the ecological repercussions will continue to be one of the main topics in the sustainability discourse.
- The importance of public-private alliances
What makes this summit interesting and valuable is the coming together of the public and private sector. No other event gathers the top leaders of the hotel business, tour operators, airport authorities, travel journalists and technology developers with state tourism boards, ministers and other government delegates, all in one place to discuss the trends, goals and challenges of a growing tourism industry. It is primordial that public offices support private efforts. Ultimately, the politics and laws of each country determine the degree and speed of economic growth of different enterprises. Foreign (and local) investment, for example, needs to be sustained on a state level with tax incentives or other means. Also, when crises hit, such as natural disasters, the alliance of both sectors can really make a difference. Reaching a consensus on certain matters will be complicated, but we need to envision long-term objectives with mutual benefits for state and private partners.
Although these topics are not new, the fact that they continue to be analyzed and communicated to various tourism players is relevant. We share common worries and goals and strive to make our work meaningful from our own ground. Plus, hearing from other people’s experiences is always eye opening and inspiring. One of the much-anticipated speakers, Francis Ford Coppola, Hollywood film director and hotelier, said that travel and film are about telling good stories and success comes from being able to do so in innovative ways. Moreover, when you tell the story with love and dedication, people listen.