Tapping into the potential of the BRIC economies was one of the key discussion points of Summit Day One of the WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Las Vegas.
China, India and Brazil are fuelling an explosion in international tourism, delivering rich rewards for countries that are prepared, but trouble for those that aren’t.
With an estimated two billion new middle class consumers expected to come into the markets from those emerging powerhouses over the next two decades, the travel industry sees enormous potential.
Panellists discussed how the stringent US visa policies were harming inbound tourism from the BRIC economies.
David Scowsill, CEO, WTTC said: “The growth of China outbound travel is moving at a huge pace – it is about 20 percent increase every year. And the number of outbound Chinese travellers hit 58 million last year.”
“And if you look ahead, (with about) 1.6 billion coming out of China and India, they are a huge amount of people coming in with money to burn,” he told reporters.
He said he wanted to get government officials and industry leaders thinking about what the arrival of the BRIC economies will mean for their national economies and the international travel business.
“Are governments ready with infrastructure build? Are private investors ready to put the investment in, and generally speaking are we ready to absorb that level of growth?”
Roger Dow, President & CEO, US Travel Association, pinpointed infrastructure to keep up with demand.
He said: “As we build this travel, which will happen, we’ll also have to take a real hard look at our infrastructure, our next generation systems for airports, and adding airport capacity,” he said.
He also added that the developed countries had taken their eyes of the ball.
The United States, for instance, has seen little growth over the past decade in the number of long-haul travellers it receives, at a time when the rest of the world has seen an increase of about 40 percent.
(Shanzhong Zhu, Vice Chairman, China National Tourism Administration)
Nevertheless, Commerce Department figures out Tuesday show a strong US rebound in travel and tourism-related exports in 2010 to 134.4 billion dollars, after a record 21 billion dollar, or 15 percent, drop in 2009.
Despite a rebound in US inbound tourism, Scowsill argued that the numbers would be much higher were it not for the slow US visa system.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States instituted requirements that every visa applicant be interviewed in person by a consular level officer.
“The end result is we have seen visa wait times for interviews go up to 100, 120 days in Brazil and China,” he said.
“In Brazil, there are only four places you can go for a visa interview. In China there are five. So the combination of the huge population, the huge demand, and the need for face-to-face interviews in very few places is what has created the problem,” he said.
The USTA released a report last week calling for an overhaul of the system.
(Roger Dow, President & CEO, US Travel Association setting the scene)
It proposed hiring 400 more consular interviewers, allowing interviews to be done by videoconference, and exploring visa waivers with countries like Brazil.
“The Brazilian economy is soaring and people want to spend money, they want to travel. And the two highest groups that spend money are the Chinese and the Brazilian travellers. They outpace other travellers in the world by 25 to 50 percent per person,” Dow added.
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The WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit is taking place at the Aria Resort & Convention Centre, Las Vegas, 17-19 May 2011. To find out more visit www.globaltraveltourism.com