The fifth UNWTO & World Travel Market (WTM) Ministers’ Summit has argued the social and economic benefits of tourism could be strengthened if governments collaborated more closely with each other and the private sector over visas, taxation, aviation agreements and marketing.
Taleb Rifai, UNWTO secretary-general, started the session by pointing out despite global uncertainty, tourism has performed well during the first eight months of 2011. International arrivals were up 4.5 per cent compared with the same period last year.
During the two-hour discussion, partnerships and coalitions were mentioned in a number of contexts by the nearly 90 ministers and aides in attendance.
“The growth of the global travel industry can be even more pronounced if the public and private sector stakeholders adopted stronger relationships and coalitions across borders and across the entire value chain,” said Fiona Jeffery, Reed Travel Exhibition director of WTM.
“WTM is committed to providing the forum for these important discussions to take place.”
The different approaches from governments to visas and the distorting effect regulations have on the global flow of travellers was a recurring issue.
It was felt widely that e-visas and air liberalisation were possible solutions. Marthinus van Shalkwyk, minister of tourism, South Africa, pointed out that the technology was available to share relevant information between authorities.
David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), said this was an area in which the sector could lead the agenda.
Travel advisories and taxation were two other issues where it was felt that tourism ministries could work in partnership with other departments.
Peter Long, chief executive of TUI Travel, said that next year’s introduction of the pan-European Emission Trading Scheme could make European travel uncompetitive and demanded “a level playing field” for taxes.
Trond Tiske, minister of trade and industry, Norway, pointed out that the global demand for tourism was not an issue, whereas the lack of funding for tourism businesses was.
Mexico’s secretary of tourism, Gloria Guevara, provided an example of how its tourism and banking ministries worked closely to increase their market in China.
“We realised that UnionPay is the biggest bank in China and we didn’t accept their cards anywhere in Mexico.
“So we worked together and now the credit cards can be used in ATMs and are as widely accepted as MasterCard and Visa,” she added.
Taleb Rifai concluded by reminding delegates that despite the challenges, the tourism sector would continue to grow over the coming years and that the number of international tourists in 2012 would break through the one billion barrier.
“The growth so far this year is astonishing, but if the sector could work more closely together, even more benefits could emerge, and this will not require any significant additional investment,” he concluded.