The most powerful and influential people in travel and tourism are gathered in Las Vegas for the start of “the Olympics of the tourism industry” – the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 11th annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit – where they’ll debate the burning industry issues over the next three days.
The event, which is being hosted at the exclusive Aria Resort & Casino, is only the second time that the influential tourism body has held its annual summit in North America – Washington 2006 was its first. In previous years, it has been staged in Qatar, Portugal, Brazil, Dubai, India and China.
By Las Vegas standards, the show is small with only about 1,000 attending. However the stature of the participants is incredible.
Among the participants in panels and keynote addresses are Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico; Ted Turner, chairman of Turner Enterprises; Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama; Steve Ridgway, CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways, who are all scheduled to give addresses.
Top executives of Hertz, Marriott International, Wyndham Worldwide, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Mandarin Oriental, TripAdvisor, Google and Expedia will be on panels. The tourism ministers of many countries are also participating.
David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC said: “We’re happy to be in Las Vegas this year and one of the keys will be showcasing travel and tourism to the U.S. administration.”
Scowsill said overcoming the challenging of visa restrictions that hinder US inbound travel would be a key topic at the session “Powering Global Growth.”
Experts estimate that there will be 2 billion new consumers that will be able to afford international travel in the next decade, most of them in China, India, Brazil and Russia. The Chinese government has considered travel and tourism one of the five key pillars of the Chinese economy, Scowsill said, and 25 new airports are being built in that country.
The U.S. Commerce Department has estimated that travel to the United States would increase by 40 percent from Brazil, 150 percent from China and 110 percent from India in the next nine years. But the failure to have an adequate visa approval process, particularly in Brazil and China, has bottlenecked the process of enabling visitors and business people from coming to the United States.
Growing worries about taxation also will be discussed at the conference. Air Passenger Duty and Value Added Tax have been widely criticized for discouraging travel to Great Britain.
Among other topics will be the role of tourism in a new world of tighter security, investments in the growth of tourism in a fragile capital structure, the role of business travel in the current economy, the role and growth of digital marketing and the recovery of tourism in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
While several tourism issues will be discussed, the summit is also an opportunity for Las Vegas to showcase itself to a global audience. Local industry executives are expected to have private meetings with worldwide tourism companies to build business ties.
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The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is attending the WTTC Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Las Vegas, 17-19 May 2011 at the Aria Resort & Casino. To find out more visit http://www.globaltraveltourism.com