The 15th annual WTTC Global Summit has once again united tourism leaders from across the whole world, bringing together top representatives from the public and private sectors, from travel associations and the media in a unique networking and discussion forum.
Here Breaking Travel News brings you the full text of WTTC president David Scowsill’s opening remarks:
Your excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
This year’s Global Summit sees us back in Europe for the first time in seven years.
We return at a time of significant change politically, economically, socially and financially on this continent.
A time when Europe is still navigating its way out of the deepest global recession since the last world war.
It is against this background, that we come together to focus on the future direction of the tourism industry.
Our opening film saw the summit theme of ‘Disruption and Reinvention’ through the eyes of our hosts here in Madrid – and what an extraordinary and evolving story it is.
Over the next two days we will hear the industry’s great leaders and innovators, discussing some of the big issues that we face today.
Despite the upheavals in the global economy over the past seven years, our sector remains vibrant.
Last year was yet another good year for tourism.
The industry generated nearly ten per cent of global GDP, some $7.6 trillion.
Around the world, we now support 277 million jobs that equates to one in 11 jobs on the planet.
Tourism is an export industry.
Last year we generated nearly six per cent of the world’s export dollars.
We grew faster in 2014 than most of the leading sectors, including automotive, public services, retail, financial services, aerospace and mining.
Not only did tourism grow for the fifth successive year, but growth was faster yet again than the wider global economy.
During 2015, the industry’s contribution to global GDP is forecast to grow at 3.7 per cent.
Employment will grow by 2.6 per cent.
By the end of 2015, the tourism sector will contribute US$7.8 trillion, ten per cent of global GDP, and we will account for 284 million jobs, 9.5 per cent of total employment.
This demonstrates the sector’s enduring ability to generate economic growth and create jobs.
But like many sectors, we continue to face our challenges.
Worldwide disruption continues to impact on us all.
It does so where we least expect it, and when we least expect it.
Who at Malaysian Airlines would have ever contemplated the tragic and catastrophic loss of two of their aircraft?
Who at Air Asia or Germanwings could have forecast their recent disasters?
Who in today’s modern Europe would have considered the political and military threat to the sovereignty of the Ukraine, and the stability of Eastern Europe?
Meanwhile the on-going destructive impact of global terrorism returned so tragically in recent weeks, with innocent tourists in Tunisia and young students in Kenya.
All proof – if indeed proof were needed – that none of us can determine events, nor the consequences that arise from them.
On the global economic front we are still recovering from the chaotic years of banking crisis and the financial meltdown.
Today the Eurozone still feels the effect of that crisis, and exchange rates globally remain turbulent.
With interest rates heading into negative territory, we are in unchartered waters.
The price of oil – so crucial to the viability of our industry - has seen extraordinary falls, benefitting many consumers but bringing with it an instability to companies and oil producing nations.
Even where, in recent years, we have looked east for economic stability, we have now seen some weaker growth and weaker consumer confidence in China.
But for every troubling effect of disruption, we can find a positive change or reinvention.
The random power of disruption is no stranger to our own industry.
We expect it and we have learned to deal with it.
Every chief executive in this room will include a disruption factor into their annual budgets.
You do not know where it will come from, nor the form that it will take, but you know that it will happen.
This industry thrives on disruption.
The arrival of the commercial jet engine revolutionised the airline industry and heralded in the era of mass travel.
The challenge to incumbent airlines of low cost carriers taking off in US in 1970’s, and spreading to Europe and Asia in the 90’s, fundamentally transformed the aviation sector.
Observers over the years have prematurely announced the demise of charter airlines, tour operators, leisure travel agents, and global distribution systems – all of which have not only survived but thrived.
As we shall see in the coming couple of days, the dismantling of existing business models, fuelled by today‘s enabling digital technologies, is cutting a disruptive swathe through so much of our industry, from hotels to cruising to car rental to airlines.
The fast growth of mobile applications is rapidly changing consumer habits, and not just among younger travellers.
It is becoming a serious game-changer for our industry.
Social media has come of age as a powerful two-way communication channel, which is a significant force to be reckoned with.
Everywhere we look, the traditional is being contested and disrupted by the shock of the new.
In response, established industry players continue to reinvent the way that they do business.
Reinventing the customer experience is key, because at the heart of this era of almost unparalleled disruption, are the shifting trends and expectations of the consumer.
We must never lose sight of that.
It is the consumer who drives all this change, and it is the consumer that leaps quickly to new brands that satisfy their demands.
This is fundamental to all change in the last ten years, and key to driving the new ‘sharing economy’.
And finally what of our ability as an industry to ‘share’?
Many outside tourism still fail to see us as a connected and united industry – preferring instead to see us in individual silos of lodging, aviation, cruise, car rental, distribution and technology suppliers.
This is particularly true with governments, who for the most part cannot see the total impact of the industry on jobs and GDP growth.
That insight would enable them to make better cross-ministerial decisions to move our industry forward.
We have to recognise that none of us can work in isolation or in a vacuum.
We are more powerful with ‘One Voice’.
That is the fundamental rationale behind the Global Travel Association Coalition that we will discuss tomorrow
Our common aims as an industry are much higher than any short-term individual company or government ambition.
Our common focus is the long-term need of this industry, and of the global economy.
So, as we seek to make the world of tourism stronger, more competitive, more consumer-focused, and more responsible, it is even more important that we focus together on the future, in this fast changing world.
Disruption can divide us or it can unite us.
History has lessons for us here.
By embracing disruption and focusing on the benefits of reinvention we can find that reinforced and shared sense of purpose and unity.
Together, we can all harness the powers of disruption to create a reinvented, reinvigorated and exciting world for this industry.