Virtuoso Travel Week is here‚ reimagined in a virtual space. Yesterday morning, kicked off with the Opening Ceremony, which touched on many elements of this new travel landscape we are all navigating. One of the highlights was a conversation between Virtuoso’s CEO Matthew Upchurch and Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
One of the main points she drove home was “we need to work together to get out of this, if not it’s going to be very painful and take longer than expected.” She also pointed out the importance of the travel and tourism industry to the world’s economic health, pointing out that travel and tourism contributes 10 percent of the global GDP, and employs 330 million people—that’s 1 out of 10. For the last nine consecutive years, the growth of travel and tourism has outpaced the growth of the economy. In 2019, that was a 3.5 percent GDP growth for travel and tourism vs. a 2.5 percent global GDP growth. From all the jobs created around the world, from all the sectors in all the industries for the last five years, 1 out of 4 were in travel and tourism,” she noted.
As we all know, COVID-19 has impacted the travel and tourism industry especially hard, with a loss of 121.1 million jobs lost around the globe, and the travel and tourism GDP falling by 39 percent. She noted that the jobs lost could amount to 197.5 million worldwide.
On the bright side, she said that she thinks “governments are finally understanding the contribution of travel and tourism—we work with 185 countries and we have to have a lot of coordination with the most important economies to get this right.”
Guevara said that WTTC is working off of four principles to help guide the recovery, and they are, as she mentioned, “based on lessons learned.”
The first one is a “coordinated approach—this is crucial for reopening borders, removing barriers. For instance, if a country decides to open and no one knows and they don’t coordinate with the private sector, it’s very complicated, or if they decide to open and later impose quarantines, that creates a lot of uncertainty. We need to have a coordinated approach, similar to what we had in 2008—that’s the lesson learned, where we had a V-shape recovery around 18 months after the financial crisis thanks to the coordination between the public and private sectors.
“Second point are the protocols—very important. A lesson learned from 9/11 is that countries work in silos and they define their own screening and safety protocols at airports; that impacted the recovery, and, of course, the confidence of the traveler. It took us years to recover after 9/11—four years on average globally—and thus the importance of protocols, to have the same experience globally. That’s why we work with our members to define those protocols and have exactly the same experience, so we can rebuild trust from the traveler faster.”
For the third principle, she pointed to the lesson learned during Ebola. “We were able to travel without a vaccine. Why was that? Because we were able to isolate the sick people. We believe testing is very important, especially because 80 percent of people are asymptomatic. We are talking about testing contract tracing throughout the journey so that we can get back to some sort of new normal while we wait for the vaccine.”
And lastly, she stressed that we all need to continue to support this important sector “because of the jobs that depend on this sector.”
She said that the travel advisor community can help by “knowing the impact of the country you live in and the contribution from travel and tourism; you can get that data from our website. Make sure you understand that contribution and in every interaction with the government, make sure to make a point about the jobs we create, about the contribution to the local economy and use that as a tool. The second one is help us educate the travelers, especially in this phase of the recovery, make sure you have the best information. And third is, let’s work together. We need to partner with more governments so that we can move faster. The message has to be very loud and clear—we need to work together to get out of this.”
For more information on the WTTC, visit wttc.org.