The World Travel CEO Forum urged the tourism industry to speak with a unified voice when dealing with mounting pressure from environmentalists.
On Monday, at the Sage Gateshead in the north of England, experts called for a more balanced debate on how governments, the travelling public and pressure groups address the tourism sector’s contribution both to economic growth and global warming.
“The immediate risk of damage to our industry from climate change is that tourism is demonised for its carbon footprint and taxed or regulated in ways that have material unintended and detrimental consequences” says Christopher Rodriguez, CEO of tourism body, VisitBritain.
Over 80 experts and travel industry figures gathered to drive a spirited enquiry into the shape and direction of the global travel industry—climate change was top of the forum’s agenda.
“The tourism industry has been vilified, yet we are really committed to solving the problems of climate change,” says David Soskin, CEO of Cheapflights.co.uk.
“More taxation could lead to less flying and profitability for airlines and therefore less money to invest in environmentally friendly aircraft. More tax will not stop affluent travellers flying but will squarely affect the disadvantaged.”
Panelists discussed how taxation on aviation was a blunt instrument in dealing with climate change and that it had wider economic implications that could be detrimental to UK’s regional economies, such as the north east.
“People are concerned about the emissions when they fly for a couple of hours, but there is little talk of the pollution we emit when spending two weeks say in a hotel,” Jan Telensky, founder of Slovakian eco-resort, Aquacity.
Top tourism executives speaking included Rohit Talwar of Fast Future, Dorothee Guthrie Vogel, analyst at Jupiter Research, and Roy Graff who heads up China Contact. Margaret Fay, chairman of UK regional development agency, One North East opened the one-day event.
During the World Travel CEO Forum topics discussed included the future of tourism, next generation destinations and the challenge of the new media age.
The forum took place at the Sage Gateshead, designed by Lord Foster, which stands on the banks of NewcastleGateshead’s Quayside in the North East England.
“The World Travel CEO Forum was created to give individuals within the travel industry an opportunity to voice their concerns and tackle problems,” says event organiser, Manon Han.
“It is crucial that the travel industry deals head on with climate issues we face. We are part of the problem, but we can also be part of the solution. Passing the responsibility and blame to other industries is not part of the equation.”
The main sponsor was development agency, North East England, other sponsors include Amadeus and Breaking Travel News.
International media participation boosted the CEO Forum’s profile with BBC World has already signed up as the official media partner and will broadcast the event to over 254 million homes in over 200 countries. Other participating publications include Breaking Travel News.
The networking event culminated in a forum dinner, which took place at Alnwick Gardens. The World Travel CEO Forum took place one day before the regional World Travel Awards Europe ceremony.