WTM Latin America debates over artificial intelligence and challenges related to sustainability

WTM Latin America debates over artificial intelligence and challenges related to sustainability

Informing trends, sharing cases, highlighting practical tips. Offering current knowledge focused on the tourism industry is one of the main pillars of WTM Latin America, and it was not different during the first day of the 2023 edition, when the event organization proved once again the demand by professionals for quality content in the three thematic theaters – Explore Trends, Explore Transformation and Explore Technology.

Artificial Intelligence was one of the highlighted themes in Explore Transformation, a space that met the assumptions of demystifying the technological tools and bringing practical tips to the attending professionals. Thiago Akira, professor and consultant of digital marketing for Tourism, m showed how ChatGPT can be useful to think about hypothetical travel scenarios, which can provide good solutions for real travelers.

For example, asking the application to assume the behavior of a particular traveler profile and keeping a dialog to clear doubts or point out possible points of attention during the interaction. “Another option is to switch roles and ask the machine for practical tips on travel and destinations,” he suggests. According to him, new technologies will always require skilled people to use them correctly. “We have to be the curators of the information that this tool brings, understanding that this information is a starting point and will need to be verified and improved,” he advocates.

Lucas Wagner, Google’s retail account manager, also revealed possibilities for business optimization by means of artificial intelligence. According to him, the adherence to digital tools saves 48% of the time that would otherwise be used for performance, leaving the professionals more available for insights and strategic decisions. In front of a packed theater, he also highlighted the changes in the buying process and the importance of data-driven way of working. “The decision journey is not linear, it is messy. That’s because people are complex and so is travel buying,” he said.

Wagner explained that the new consumer is multichannel – Google searches show that 54% of people use five or more online and offline channels to decide on a purchase – and they travel a longer way before closing any deal online. “There are about 500 digital interactions before a possible conversion, and the higher the average ticket, the more this process lengthens,” he points out. He also reminded that this new journey starts with a trigger, goes on to the exploration moment and through assessment. “The next step can be either the purchase or a return to the exploration phase, starting from new inputs,” he says.

Storytelling was another theme that drew the audience’s attention on this first day of WTM Latin America for the sales potential a good story can result in. “The technique connects travelers with authentic experiences, helps promote little-known destinations or those with little investment capacity, and can still be a strategy in the sustainable tourism management,” defended Marta Poggi, a consultant in digital marketing for tourism and hospitality.

Storytelling has also the power to make stories that often go unnoticed better known. That’s what showed Carlos Humberto da Silva Filho, co-founder and CEO of Diaspora Black, and Thais Rosa, CEO of the travel agency Conectando Territórios, initiatives that promote black culture and history and the responsible tourism in traditional communities and places of memory. 

“Storytelling is about telling stories, but it requires empathy,” commented Carlos, who showed ways to use the concept coupled with real, heartwarming stories. “Tourism has the power to join and strengthen narratives, telling other people stories that should have been told to us, but weren’t,” Thais added. 

And since the theme is storytelling, WTM brought a panel that debated the relationship between those who produce and publish images and the photographed destinations. “Responsibility has to be at the core of everything we do. The camera as well as cell phones are instruments of power,” reminded Andrea D’Amato, photographer and PhD student in Visual Anthropology. “Distorted images that go viral can produce crises, and managing them is much more labor intensive than the prior caution,” said Heitor Salatiel, cultural and tourism experience manager.

Andréa and Heitor have shared their own experiences where the unthinking use of cameras when traveling through traditional and religious territories caused discomfort among those present. And they emphasized the importance of practicing empathy and asking permission to capture images of people who accept to open their homes and places of affection to visitors. 

Challenges in sustainability

In the forefront of the debate related to responsible tourism, WTM Latin America once again dedicated a theater to the different biases of this theme. The opening panel reflected on the challenges of the public sector in encouraging sustainable actions and brought to the stage Marianne Costa (Vivejar Institute), Rafaela Lehmann (Ministry of Tourism), Bruno Wendling (Mato Grosso do Sul Tourism Foundation) and, Ana Clévia Guerreiro (National Sebrae).

The panelists agreed that the lack of continuity in public policies is one of the biggest challenges to overcome, along with the urgency in taking responsibility for all the links – public sphere, private initiative and community. “Institutional sustainability is a little-discussed topic, but it is essential to contemplate this pillar in the strategy. It is necessary to join strengths and continue what yields good results, instead of acting with revanchism or thinking only about new methods to reinvent the wheel,” defended Bruno.

Ana Clévia defended the creation of a structured policy for the medium and long term, while Rafaela highlighted the importance of partnerships – especially with the academy. “We need researches to move forward, and 90% of the initiatives in the area of sustainability and climate actions of Mtur were developed with academics”, she concluded.

Employability was another theme debated in the space, under the inclusion bias. “Attracting talents has always been an obstacle, and this got worse after we came out of the worst phase of the crisis because other sectors have adapted much faster to online or hybrid work, while many positions in tourism still require in-person business hours. When a youngster compares the offers and considers the travel, clothing and food costs, tourism ends up losing”, advocated researcher Mariana Aldrigui.

Clóvis Casemiro, manager of the International LGBT Tourism Association (IGLTA), highlighted the deficit in education – especially for service in other languages –, while Ricardo Gomes, president of the Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and Tourism LGBT, suggested that entrepreneurs start acting by analyzing their own staff. “Fostering business requires a minimum alignment with your team that should be diverse, representing Brazilian society, with gays, lesbians, trans, blacks, wheelchair users. It is necessary to start paying this social debt that has persisted for a long time,” he lists.

In this regard Gustavo Pinto, president of Vivejar Institute, sends a message to small size companies: create short-term goals to promote change. “Consider hiring a black, woman or LGBT person as a goal, even if your company has only five employees,” he suggests. To independent agents, he indicates another path: seek diverse suppliers and list products that complement the customer experience, providing more contact with diversity.


WTM Latin America was also the stage for a mutual cooperation agreement between Embratur and 16 municipalities of São Paulo coast. Marcelo Freixo, Embratur’s president; Roberto de Lucena, São Paulo’s tourism secretary, and leaders of the municipalities met to celebrate the incentive that was created, initially, to contribute to the economic recovery of this region after the heavy rains occurred a little over a month ago.

Embratur is committed to running an online advertising campaign to attract travelers from Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, in addition to formatting a sales campaign in partnership with the operators associated with Braztoa. Public managers and businessmen from the region will also count on training courses related to international tourism, business and events. Adriana Balbo, São Sebastião’s tourism secretary, celebrated the initiative. “The Coast is getting stronger and stronger, united, and structured to welcome back tourists”, she said.

JetSmart’s new route between São Paulo and Santiago, Chile, was another launch that marked the first day of the event The low-cost airline will have five flights a week between the two destinations, and is expected to operate the flight daily as of July this year. “Little by little we keep growing on new routes, showing our strength in the countries where we stop. We also have the most sustainable fleet of aircraft in South America, and we expect to increase it from 24 to 124 airplanes by 2028,” said Victor Mejía, commercial director of the company founded in 2017.

To celebrate the occasion and boost tourism on the continent, the airline also announced a 25% discount coupon for trade show attendees to purchase their tickets for the new route until the end of the event – the boarding is expected to occur by the end of 2023. JetSmart also operates routes from Foz do Iguaçu (to Santiago) and Rio de Janeiro (to Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo).

To end the day, Ecuadorian tourism held a press conference to strengthen its interest in attracting Brazilian tourists. The South American country showed its natural, cultural and gastronomic attributes – including the tasting of local chocolates and wines, and the drawing of a trip – and highlighted the efforts to resume direct flights to Brazil. “We are getting back to work after the pandemic, developing contacts to get the flight back and doing promotions so that Brazilians can get to know our wonders”, said Edgar Novoa, Director of the Ecuadorian Commercial Office in Brazil.

About WTM Latin America

WTM Latin America is held annually in the city of São Paulo and attracts about 20 thousand tourism professionals during the three-day event. The event offers a qualified content combined with networking and business opportunities. In its latest edition, in 2022, WTM Latin America kept its focus on effective business generation, and was able to schedule in advance six thousand meetings that were held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors. The next event, which marks the 10-year anniversary of WTM Latin America, takes place between April 3 and 5 (Monday and Wednesday, respectively), at Expo Center Norte, in São Paulo. More information is available in our press area, on the website: content in Portuguese, content in Spanish, content in English.

Press information: WTM Latin America

Comunica Hub

Marcia Leite – (11) 9-4334 3017 – marcia@comunicahub.com.br

Luciana Gonçalves Frei (11) 9-5134 9665 – lucianafrei@comunicahub.com.br

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WTM Latin America is the three day must-attend business-to-business (B2B) event which brings the world to Latin America and promotes Latin America to the world.

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