As the first in-person event of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Global Summit, held in New York City at the end of May, the Travel Tech Symposium proved to be a huge success. The event was a chance for startups and technology companies to demonstrate their newest technological advances and network with WTTC members and travel industry experts.
CANCUN, MEXICO – The rebound of the travel industry is in full swing.
That is the clear message from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on the occasion of the World Summit 2021.
This is a global recovery platform, said Gloria Guevara, CEO of the WTTC. The recovery of travel and tourism starts here.
Uniting the world for recovery was the main theme of the summit, which was held at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico.
With over 600 attendees from over 70 countries and over 30,000 virtual attendees at a hybrid face-to-face and online event, WTTC and Palace Resorts had their hands full.
There are always challenges associated with hosting a global event of this magnitude. In the era of the COVID 19 pandemic, there is even more pressure to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, while adhering to specific health and safety protocols.
Although a negative COVID-19 test is not required to enter Mexico, all participants were required to take the COVID-19 test in person upon arrival at the facility.
Health and safety are critical to the success of this summit, as they will help the tourism industry get back on its feet.
We have the opportunity and responsibility to reconnect the world and create a truly inclusive growth profile in our industry for our children, grandchildren and beyond, said Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta. Last year we saw very clearly what happens when travel and tourism decline. The economic and social consequences are enormous. Last year, our industry’s contribution to global GDP fell by 49% and 62 million jobs were lost in a single year. Therefore, as we look to the future, we need to focus more than ever on creating new opportunities for people to build a better life for themselves and their families, because we know that travel and tourism are the driving force behind those opportunities.
Hilton Christopher J. Nassetta at the WTTC World Summit. Nassetta at the WTTC World Summit. (Photo: Eric Bowman)
Guevara said the tourism sector lost $4.5 trillion and was hit 18 times harder by COVID-19 than by the 2008 financial crisis.
After the speeches at the opening ceremony, Monday was divided into three different sessions. The first focused on the big picture, the second on accelerating recovery, and the third on sustainability through leadership.
Each session included several panels with speakers from around the world from different areas of the industry, from cruise lines to hotels, tour operators, airports, travel technology and more.
All panelists said that the past year has been devastating in many ways, but that there is hope for the future of the tourism industry, and that we are already seeing encouraging signs.
It has been an incredibly challenging year, said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC and Company. But I’m very happy to say that New York City is experiencing a renaissance. Optimism grows by the day. We have given some of our streets back to pedestrians by creating spaces for outdoor dining. We look forward to the return of Broadway in the fall.
Panelists discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry (Photo: Eric Bowman)
Many summit participants were asked what needs to be done to resume travel. Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, said we all need to come together.
Uniformity and consistency at all levels, Donald said. We need a unified, science-based approach that gets people traveling again. The travel and tourism industry remains an exciting sector. We have a bright future.
The virtual platform hosted discussions on Europe, Asia and Latin America, while the main platform hosted personal discussions on tourism in North America.
The domestic trips were mainly for those who felt well enough last year.
Robin Tauck, owner of Tauck, Inc. and president of Tourism Cares, spoke about what drives travelers to cross the United States.
It’s been a tough year, but we’re recovering like never before, Tauck said. Ninety-five percent of our guests are vaccinated. The spring awakening in the United States has been phenomenal. It includes several of our major national parks.
Tauck says small groups are becoming the new norm for tour packages, adding that all tour packages we offer in the U.S. will be open and operational by June.
It’s no secret that Mexico and the Caribbean dominate international tourism.
Alex Zozaya, president of Apple Leisure Group, said he sees an increase in bookings for 2021. Bookings for Mexico and the Caribbean for 2021 are even better now than at this point in 2019, Zozaya said.
Another major topic of discussion on Monday is how to restore traveler confidence and how the pandemic has affected the way people around the world will want to travel in the future.
Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, spoke about the human connection in travel and how he thinks travel is changing.
There will be a change not only in where we travel, but also in why we travel and who we travel with, Chesky said. I think people will spend more money on travel.
Daniel Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, says we need to eliminate fear and uncertainty to reassure travelers. If we can do all that, I can guarantee the demand will come back, Richards said.
Gibran Chapur, executive vice president of Palace Resorts, said he is already seeing an increase in leisure and meeting travel sales at Palace Resorts. He also agreed that people will seek out more meaningful experiences when they travel. According to Chapur, travel has become more important than material things.
Almost all panelists noted that the news that Europe will allow vaccinated travelers from the U.S. this summer is a big step forward for the industry’s recovery.
EWG did not specify the exact date when this news was announced. However, Fernando Valdes Verelst, Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism, has already set a timetable for the reopening of his country to the world.
Spain will be ready in June to tell all travelers from around the world that they can visit us with confidence, he said. The pilot programme will start in May and from June onwards there will be no restrictions at Spanish borders for vaccinated travellers.
Spain will be ready in June to tell all travelers from around the world that you can visit us with confidence. – Fernando Valdes Verelst – Spanish Secretary of State for Tourism #GSCancun #WTTCSummit @WTTC pic.twitter.com/k0LMXIDsLv
– (@) 26. April 2021.
One of the sectors of the tourism industry that has suffered the most from a fiasco is the cruise industry. While many continue to struggle to bring back cruises from U.S. ports, cruise lines are making headway with offers to depart from Caribbean ports.
The good news is that we are seeing a return to cruising where there is communication and collaboration with governments and health authorities, and where actions are based on science and laid out very clearly step by step, said Kelly Craighead, CEO of CLIA. Cruisers like to travel, so they go where the cruisers are, and it’s again a matter of working with the government and the health authorities. Where there is coordination, cooperation and communication between industry and governments, more and more ships are being relocated to places where operations can resume in a responsible manner.
Monday ended with a gala dinner on the beach, where several key players in the tourism industry received awards and recognitions from the WTTC.
WTTC 2021 World Summit Gala Dinner in Cancun, Mexico, Moon Palace Resort (Photo: Eric Bowman).
On Tuesday, the summit continued with a focus on sustainability and inclusion.
It is no secret that the whole world needs improvement in these two areas. The tourism industry is in a fantastic position to lead the way in both these areas as we overcome this pandemic and move towards a better future.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the WTTC launched an innovative initiative to support women in the travel and tourism industry.
As the first female president and CEO of the WTTC, I am honored to support this important initiative, Guevara said. Today’s commitment with the launch of the first ever Women in Travel and Tourism initiative, which brings together the private, public and academic sectors to work towards women’s equality, is a major step forward. Globally, women are disproportionately affected by a pandemic that has exacerbated the wage gap, opportunity gap and shocking lack of managerial and executive positions in the travel and tourism industry.
That has to change. WTTC research shows that women play an important role and make up 54% of the global travel and tourism workforce. But despite the fact that women make up more than half of the sector, there are too few women in managerial or strategic positions.
The issue of sustainable development was raised by many panelists on Monday and Tuesday.
We need to focus on protecting the places where we live, where we work, where we travel, and we need to focus on truly inclusive growth that prioritizes investment in diverse talent, Nassetta said.
Many in the industry agreed that we should forget about 2019 and start earlier. It’s time to look to the future to make the travel industry, and by extension the world, a better place.
We can’t retreat now, Nassetta said. Together, we must design a new travel era that will enable us to move into the future and guarantee progress for all. We have a great opportunity here. The reality is, if we get through this pandemic and do our job, the next two or three years will be better than before, because we know people want to travel.
They want to see the world. We just need to give them the means to do so. We will and we can. We can overcome this period and build a better world for us all. We have to do it. It is necessary. It is a big responsibility and I have full confidence in the people in this room and around the world, because our industry has done it before and will do it again.
At the end of the summit, Mr. Donald spoke as the new President of the WTTC, succeeding Mr. Nassetta. Donald thanked Nassetta for her time and contributions and then spoke about the significance and importance of the travel industry to the world.
Although last year had its challenges…. Let’s not forget how lucky we are to be in an industry that creates joy, unites the world and makes it a better place for all of us, Donald said.
The WTTC World Summit 2021 marked the beginning of a strong comeback for the travel industry. Many industry players will use what was discussed and learned here for their future events, marketing campaigns and more.
After the Cancun Summit, the WTTC announced that the next World Summit will be held in Manila, Philippines.
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