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BTN talks to WTTC President Jean-Claude Baumgarten

BTN talks to WTTC President Jean-Claude Baumgarten
Jean-Claude Baumgarten is the President of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). BTN met up with him to find out his thoughts on how the travel industry is faring in the downturn and what the WTTC’s predictions of what the future might hold.

BTN: What were the highlights of this year’s summit in Florianopolis? And the key issues learned?
JCB: This year’s summit comes at the very difficult time for the industry. The Main theme of the summit revolves around the necessary partnership between the public and private sector.

BTN: Organizing the Summit in Florianopolis was arguably the most ambitious yet. What proved the biggest obstacle in making it happen?
JCB: Organizing a global summit of this magnitude is always a challenge. The economic crisis, swine flu lead to concerns with regards to international attendance. Air connection and the lack of an international airport in Florianopolis made things more difficult. Nevertheless this year’s summit enjoyed one of the highest attendances with a healthy global participation rate.

BTN: In March, WTTC cut its forecasts for tourism GDP to -3.5%. Three months on is your outlook equally pessimistic?
JCB: With the first half of 2009 behind us, we believe that our global Travel & Tourism GDP contraction forecasted at -3.5% seems to be well to be well in line with reality. Initially they was a feeling for being overly pessimistic, however with the unfolding of events in 2009 it appears that the industry will indeed have a downturn this year, WTTT considers that 2010 will experience only a slight recovery, medium and long term are much better and the 10 year forecast is around 4 percent per year.

BTN: Should governments bail out travel and tourism companies, as the have other industries such as cars?
JCB: The Travel & Tourism industry does not wish to receive any hand-outs: however the industry strongly opposes any further obstacles that will make it difficult to operate in the present situation and delay the recovery process. No additional taxes and barriers to growth have to be avoided.

BTN: What do you see as the biggest challenge for Travel & Tourism, both in the short and long term?
JCB: The biggest challenge is the state of the air industry. The director general of IATA speaks about airlines beeing in a survival mode. This sector of our industry is vital for the world Travel & Tourism.

BTN: In theses times of economic austerity, how can tourism companies generate profit whilst also as protecting nature?
JCB: Innovation is key. We see a worldwide movement towards environment friendly behavior and management. We have recently issued a report on how the industry is committed and will be an active part of the world environment agenda.

Career in brief: Jean-Claude Baumgarten

Born in Strasbourg in May 1942, Jean-Claude Baumgarten graduated from the French business school, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales. He joined Air France in 1970 and quickly rose up the ranks. By 1990 he was appointed Vice President for the Americas and Asia, and in 1993 the Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations. Prior to leaving Air France in 1998, Jean-Claude held the position of advisor to the Chairman.

He also represented the on the Board of Governors of IATA and the Executive Committee of the AEA.

In 1999 he was appointed President of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Jean-Claude is both an Officier de l’Ordre National du Merite and a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. He is advisor in Foreign Trade to both the French Government and the Chairman of the Tourism Commission. He was presented with the Gold Medal for Tourism by Turismo do Algarve in 2003.