WORLD LEADERS, globalisation scholars and advocates for sustainable tourism urged the business world to conduct longer-term thinking in a bid to tackle global issues at the two-day World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit that began in Bangkok yesterday.
Former British prime minister David Cameron, one of the personalities, pundits and industry leaders joining the summit alongside Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who presided over the opening, voiced concerns on global problems that demand immediate attention from those in the tourism world.
“Tourism can transform countries. Governments and those in the business world should work together to tackle the threat of Islamist extremism while preserving the benefits of globalisation,” Cameron said during a session titled “Altered States: Has Globalisation Had Its Day?”
David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the WTTC, opened the summit by highlighting the need for the tourism industry to lead the way in transforming the world given tourism’s transformational power.
He said travel and tourism stimulated the economy by generating more than US$7.6 trillion globally and supporting more than 292 million jobs, or one in 10 jobs worldwide. The sector has grown faster than the global economy consistently over the last six years.
“Is it too much to ask that travel and tourism lead the way in transforming our world? That it is our sector making the difference? Our sector leading the world in the eradication of poverty, cleaning up the oceans, and protecting natural habitats? Or put differently: Is it too much to ask that travel and tourism make the world a better, more peaceful place? Travel and tourism can transform our world. It is transforming our world,” he said.
Highlighted as a specific driver of three of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, business and leisure travel will help shape the global agenda for the next 15 years, he said.
“We are now seeing the recalibration of global politics. It is becoming clearer that the economic growth we have enjoyed over the past half-century, and the globalisation that has driven it is not working for everyone. Governments are calling into question some of the basic freedoms of people movement and trade, upon which all our businesses so depend.”
In the face of terrorism and natural disasters, travel and tourism have shown resilience as people continue to move around the globe. But the growth of tourism does not benefit everyone. Inequality and poverty still exist because some people have been left behind by change and globalisation, conceded Ian Goldin, professor of globalisation and development at the University of Oxford.
“We are in an age of discovery in this world where everything changes, the way people understand the world changes. The information revolution is driving the change today. Globalisation means when we connect, good things connect. Bad things also connect too. How are we going to avoid a religious war?” Goldin said.
Scowsill believes that travel and tourism can still play a vital part in the global quest for a more equal, inclusive, and sustainable world.
“For our sector to continue to thrive we must focus on three elements: people need to be able to travel; we need successful businesses; and we need responsible practices,” he asserted.