The global travel & tourism industry is one of the few, enduring sources of optimism and growth in our world today. The way in which the world is opening up to new places for discovery and engaging with different cultures, is occurring not just because of advances in technology, aviation and economic empowerment but equally so in mindsets. It is a significant change.
Travel and tourism is an industry in which vision is a fuel that turns possibility into powerful, purposeful reality.
For those of us who have committed ourselves to the promotion, protection, and preservation of the future of travel & tourism, we have an innate obligation to work together to unlock barriers and strengthen enablers for industry advancement. Additionally, we must ensure we work with governments to promote the uniqueness of each country. I do become concerned when disconnects appear between the public and private sector, and it becomes business versus government.
This phenomenon is not unique to any one country. At this very moment several countries across the tourism world are locked in struggles.
A case in point: the tourism industry in South Africa (country of my birth, and a place I remain personally passionate about as an advocate promoting my country as an exceptional travel destination) including the Department of Tourism, currently colliding with the Department of Home Affairs. The issue: new visa rules requiring biometric testing of potential tourists. Why? To put a stop to child trafficking. Only one issue – tourism and traffickers have nothing to do with one another. The regulations have become a direct deterrent to tourism yet will have minimal impact on child traffickers, if any at all. The damage is being done. At time of writing, the 2014/2015 year-end high season has lost significant traveller numbers. The ripple effect of negative impact on tourist sector earnings, jobs and competitiveness will further negatively impact an economy already in recession following strikes in the mining sector. As the damage to tourism image and arrival figures grows, the voice of the tourism sector in opposition to Home Affairs is getting louder and louder.
Still, no movement, and no signs of hope. Positions are being held firm. Business continues to increase its appeals towards government for action, feeling unheard and losing faith in leaders in highest national office.
Sadly, it happens all over the world. Issues may differ, but responses are the same. It may be visa regulations, taxation, poaching, investment attraction, development, any of a number of critical tourism sector issues central to industry growth, or decline.
So what is the solution?
The answer to this fundamental question is not somewhere out there, it is with us. We, the leaders of the travel and tourism industry, must be the solution.
The reality is this: no one in public office can ever understand the realities of the front line of travel & tourism like the people who provide the ultimate experience – tourism businesses. And so:
- We as the private sector need to work collaboratively as a singular voice. For an industry that contributes over 9.5% to worldwide GDP and generates over 265 million jobs, still, sadly, we have a limited voice. Which is why we must join together and work through organisations like the WTTC (http://www.wttc.org/ which The Travel Corporation (TTC), parent company of Trafalgar, is proud to be a part of as a Board Member, represented by Brett Tollman, TTC’s CEO) to ensure that we amplify our voice. Our daily work, our impact, our research, the feedback we receive from travellers is what needs to be heard.
- With governments, a commitment to pushing not just the problems, but also the solutions is needed. That is what PPP – Public Private Partnership, is really all about. Working proactively as partners, rebuilding trust and respect for respective roles and interests, working together to achieve shared success, can be the only way that growth potential of the sector can be leveraged for travellers, destinations and industry, across the world.
To me there is no alternative if we hope to see the future of our sector as one of truly sustainable, meaningful growth. Let’s reach out and make it possible.