The travel and tourism sector must show how it can help economies to rebuild – and stop being seen as victims or villains, say industry bosses.
The sector must demonstrate its importance in destinations around the world, which are threatened by instability because of job losses and sustainability concerns.
That was the message from WTM Virtual, during a session called Travel Future: Balancing Risk & Restoring Confidence.
Talking about the importance of a sustainable future, Luis Araujo, President of Turismo de Portugal, said: “We need to stop being seen as victims or villains.
“The only way to change this is to understand tourism is a force for good. If not, we will lose jobs and there will be social instability.
“I hope tourism will be seen as force for the economy and help solve problems.”
John de Vial, Director of Membership and Financial Services at ABTA, commented:
“Sustainable development can go hand in hand with consumer demand. We can help the recovery of destination communities around the world.”
He pointed to ABTA’s new ‘Tourism for Good’ report and its Travelife sustainability certification scheme as examples of how the sector is helping destinations.
Panellists agreed that collaboration between public and private sectors, as well as governments around the world, was vital to develop consumer confidence and open up international travel.
Alan French, UK CEO at Thomas Cook, said: “Consumer confidence underpins everything but there is no single silver bullet.”
He said it was vital that consumers can trust they will be refunded if holiday plans need to change – and there must be coordinated agreements between countries about testing programmes.
One country held up as a good example is Singapore.
Carrie Kwik, Europe Executive Director at Singapore Tourism Board, said private and public collaboration has been key in developing health protocols, contact tracing, widespread testing and a nationwide accreditation scheme for businesses.
The panellists agreed that technology used during the pandemic, such as virtual and augmented reality, will remain important in marketing and product development.
Kwik said the success of online events may mean that hybrid events may prove a long-term feature in the future – and more digital nomads will choose to spend longer periods working overseas.
French forecast fewer two-week sunshine holidays as people increasingly opt for more
experiential breaks, and de Vial said: “We’ve learnt how to work from home; that’s a game changer for combining travel and life.”
Araujo concluded: “This is the moment to prepare for the future…but the big concern is a lack of coordination and cooperation.
“Our biggest competition is not our neighbouring countries; it is fear; we fight fear with clear coordination from all sectors.”