World Travel & Tourism president David Scowsill has urged world leaders not to close borders in response to the growing threat of terrorism.
Speaking at the start of the organisation’s annual Global Summit in Dallas, Texas, he said: “Closing borders and jeopardising the freedom to travel is not the answer to the current security concerns.
“World leaders need to stand together and act now, with the support of the tourism sector.”
Scowsill told the assembled private and public sector delegates that: “The combination of global terrorism and an international refugee crisis is creating an unprecedented threat, but closing our borders and jeopardising our freedom to travel is not the solution.
“We have to prevent an overreaction from governments.
“We live in an ever-connected world, brought closer by technology, multi-platform media, binding trade agreements and the sheer speed of travel.
“That same connectivity sees us witnessing the migration of peoples, on a scale not seen for decades.
“Navigating our way through and beyond the complexities of mass migration, embracing the possibilities while acknowledging the concerns, will be the urgent task of our global leaders now and in the future,” he said.
In calling on world leaders to “prevent an overreaction from governments” he said the critical question is to understand “how can we keep our borders safe, while keeping those same borders open to business travellers and tourists?”
He reminded delegates of the impact of the US border tightening after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which led to a ‘lost decade’ of tourism income that cost the United States some $600 billion.
WTTC advocates improving international intelligence and security agency cooperation, better use of technology, and better communication as ways of combatting the problem.
Such action will take global agreements and a commitment to sharing data – something which can only happen with concerted international effort.
“World leaders need to stand up together and to act now. And it is our role as Travel & Tourism leaders to make that happen,” Scowsill added.
The economic contribution of tourism is clear.
Globally, the sector contributes $7.2 trillion annually, almost ten per cent of the world’s GDP, and supports one in eleven of all jobs on the planet, an exceptionally resilient performance despite many challenges.