President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Jean-Claude Baumgarten, has called on governments around the world to work in partnership with the private sector of travel and tourism for the long-term sustainability of the industry.“The last few months have been increasingly challenging,” Baumgarten told delegates attending the World Travel Market’s Global Economic Forum in London, “not just for Travel & Tourism but for all sectors of the global economy.”
“What started as a credit crunch in the USA has developed into a major financial and economic crisis that has spread rapidly to all four corners of the globe,” he added. “And we clearly haven’t seen the end of it yet.”
Although there are many uncertainties as to how long the current crisis will continue, and how deep its impact will be on disposable incomes and business and consumer confidence in different markets, past experience has shown that the travel and tourism industry always rebounds from cyclical downturns - sometimes even stronger than before.
“Moreover,” Baumgarten noted, “although severe, this crisis cannot be compared with past crises due to events such as 9/11, SARS, or even the Gulf war. Today, people still want to travel and, once the recovery starts, there is likely to be huge pent-up demand.”
“In the meantime, the industry is by no means at a standstill as some would lead us to believe,” Baumgarten said. “Today’s leaders of travel and tourism have been confronted by many challenging periods in the past, and they are used to making the most of enforced downturns to plan ahead for the future.”
“It will take some time to re-establish the balance between supply and demand,” he continued, “and it’s going to be a very different world out there when we do see the end of the current crisis. But we know it will come, and we are confident that the long-term future of travel and tourism will be assured.”
Nevertheless, the WTTC President & CEO had a few words of caution for the industry and governments.
“It is more critical than ever for the public and private sectors to work together in partnership to address the challenges and try to find solutions,” he said. “This is one reason why we are taking our annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit to Santa Catarina in Brazil next year.
“As one of the BRIC countries, Brazil has huge potential for development - not least in travel and tourism - and it’s clear that there is growing interest in Brazil’s travel and tourism development from foreign private investors,” Baumgarten noted. “In fact, we will be taking a group of private investors to Florianópolis, Santa Catarina’s state capital, in the next few months.”
Turning to the public sector representatives at the Forum, Baumgarten stressed that “this is no time for governments to see travel and tourism as a ‘cash cow’ - an easy source of much-needed revenues for the treasury’s coffers.”
Rather, he warned, governments should provide a supportive policy framework to help stimulate demand and ensure that the travel industry continues to generate employment and alleviate poverty in emerging markets.
“In this way, it will be beneficial for everyone - destinations, host communities, the industry and consumers,” Baumgarten said.