WTTC attempts to unite some of the world for tourism recovery

  1. Did you miss the WTTC Summit in Cancun? Watch the entire event on eTurboNews from this article on page 3.
  2. Some of the world’s leading private and public sector Travel & Tourism leaders took a united stand to safely restart international travel at the closure of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Global Summit.
  3. The Global Summit named Carnival Corporation President and CEO, Arnold Donald, as the new chair of WTTC, which represents the largest companies in the global private Travel & Tourism sector.

Key members in the just-concluded Summit discussed how together they could safely restart international travel, while looking to an even more sustainable and inclusive future of the sector. 

The new WTTC Chairman took over from outgoing Chair, Chris Nassetta, President and CEO of Hilton, after three successful years at the helm of WTTC.

Following the success of the 2-day Cancun Global Summit, WTTC announced Manila, capital of the Philippines, will be the host of its next Global Summit with dates to be confirmed. 

600+ business leaders, government ministers, and key decision-makers from across the global Travel & Tourism sector gathered together in Mexico to discuss the road to recovery for the embattled sector.

It was obvious, participation varied by region, making at a Summit of spot representation. Leaders from the European Union and South Africa were not seen personally, but other key personalities like the Minister of Tourism from Brazil; Roger Dow, head of the US Travel Association; or Isabell Hill, Director of the Office of Travel and Tourism, United States Department of Commerce, attended by virtual hook up.

Puerto Rico was the original venue for the 2020 summit. The 2020 summit was moved to Cancun. The official reason was because of hurricane damage. 2020 did not take place until now in 2021. Therefore WTTC also celebrated 30 years in Cancun.

It was not surprising that Puerto Rico had no part or was seen at the WTTC conference this week.

According to media reports The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. has filed a lawsuit against the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) seeking a refund of $1.5 million it paid as part of an agreement — that was broken — to co-host the event, according to the claim filed at the San Juan Superior Court.

In September 2019, local event co-host, Discover Puerto Rico, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK-based WTTC to host the 2020 WTTC Global Summit on theUS island in April 2020. The WTTC required $4 million from the host to bring the event to Puerto Rico.

However, in January 2020, WTTC announced it would no longer be holding the event in Puerto Rico, moving it to Cancún, Mexico instead. Coupled with that announcement was the WTTC’s alleged confirmation to the Tourism Co. that it would reimburse the $1.5 million in full, if the government accepted the cancellation of the event, according to the lawsuit.

Also missing in Cancun was the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). When Dr. Taleb Rifai was Secretary-General of UNWTO both WTTC and UNWTO were always seen together and coordinating activities. This stopped when Georgian National Zurab Pololikashvili took the helm of the UN-affiliated organization in 2018. Confirming how much UNWTO lost on relevance in the global world of tourism was the fact many UNWTO government members now look at WTTC as credible partners. It explains the high interest by the public sector to also be part of the WTTC trendsetting.

Although WTTC represents the largest travel companies in the world, due to the pandemic or the member-base of tourism-dependent destinations including Nepal, Asia, and Africa, the Pacific was not able to be a part of this perhaps essential discussion. Jamaica Minister Edmund Bartlett gave a voice to many of them. Juergen Steinmetz, the Chair of the World Tourism Network (WTN) representing many medium-sized and small companies in 127 countries, observed the event as a non-member.

The most prominent participant and the person receiving numerous recognition and awards was the Hon. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia. He also delivered the keynote address. Saudi Arabia was granted the opportunity for WTTC to have a regional office in its Kingdom. Saudi Arabia also reached out to Mexico and the Caribbean with investment and cooperation opportunities. Saudi Arabia is also home of the new regional UNWTO center and a center with the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Center is planned as well. The Minister said when his country announced tourism visas right before the world was hit by COVID-19, 40,000 applications were expected. The reality was 400,000.

Opponents specifically in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia warned of serious human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. The fact, however, is that despite these challenges, the tourism potential for the Kingdom is enormous.

Vaccines alone are not the answer. Read about this and other challenges discussed and watch the event archived online. Click on NEXT PAGE.

One of the most global Ministers of Tourism and a champion for the needs of smaller tourism-dependent destinations, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett from Jamaica is now in a 2-week quarantine upon his return to Jamaica. He knew how important the event in Cancun was to bring up the concerns of the Caribbean and other smaller destinations to compete with giant developed countries including the US, Europe, and the UK.

Vaccines alone cannot be the answer. There has to be a balance of fairness. The UK would be guilty of “vaccine politics” and unfair discrimination if it were to ban travel to countries like Jamaica next month for the reason that vaccination numbers in countries like Jamaica are too low.

Instead, Mr. Bartlett urged the UK to honor its historic Commonwealth links by sharing its vaccine supplies with Jamaica and other poorer nations.

The truth is that 10 countries had cornered more than 70 percent of all vaccines in the world and were vaccinating their populations at 5 times the rate of the rest of the world.

The truth is also that many of the so-called poorer countries managed to keep both visitors and residents safer than richer nations with strict protocols designed to the individual situation. Many small- and medium-sized members of the World Tourism Network (WTN) are worried about this inequality and feel it will hurt the recovery. “We are only safe if all of us are safe,” said US President Biden. There were 170 former Heads of State and Nobel Prize recipients who urged the US President to push for a temporary waiver of patent protection so that poorer nations can produce or obtain vaccines for their populations. The direst example is currently ongoing in India.

In a world-first, WTTC organized its event for the first time in person since the outbreak of the pandemic – with tens of thousands more joining virtually – while complying with strict world-class health and hygiene protocols. eTurboNews provided its global network to WTTC complimentary. All WTN members were also invited to watch live and communicate with WTN participants in Cancun via WhatsApp.

Regular testing was made available for all delegates attending for the duration of the Summit to ensure their safety was paramount.

Out of 1,000 tests, 2 or 3 came back positive. “We did not allow those who tested positive to enter the event venue,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO.

Gloria said: “WTTC brought together exceptional leaders from across the private and public sectors throughout Travel & Tourism at our Global Summit, united in their desire to safely revive international travel.

“Our very presence here, shows that we can resume international traveling once more by observing the latest health and safety protocols, which WTTC has helped develop for businesses large and small throughout the sector.

“Together we have shown that with a united front, both the private and public sectors in Travel & Tourism can drive change and get the world moving again so that we can start traveling, exploring, and sharing our experiences face-to-face.

“We concluded our Global Summit here in Cancun confident that together we can revive a sector which will generate the world’s economic recovery and bring people back together thanks to the amazing benefits international Travel & Tourism can bring.”

Under the theme of “Uniting the World for Recovery,” Tourism Ministers from around the world and Travel & Tourism business leaders agreed that there is a need for greater public and private collaboration.

At WTTC’s Global Leaders Dialogue session, they debated how the sector could tackle the pressing issues of protecting jobs, saving businesses, and supporting the global economy through the safe revival of international travel.

The growing importance of using digital technology, such as biometrics, a major force in the post-COVID-19 world, was recognized as being critical to creating a contactless, safe, and seamless traveler journey.

WTTC also committed to work towards a more inclusive and sustainable future. It pledged to advocate and advance gender equality and equity, as well as boost female representation in leadership roles by launching its Women’s Initiative with the help of 18 Grand Slam singles title winner, Martina Navratilova. 

The Global Summit saw the signing of the WTTC Women’s Initiative Declaration, which recognized the contribution of women around the world and the importance of an equitable environment for women to thrive as leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

On the next page, you can watch both days of the event using the eTurboNews live broadcast. Click on NEXT PAGE.