SHARED SOLUTIONS FOR SHARED GROWTH

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The 2012 Games an Emotional Trap?

Olympics in London 2012

Many of us are in the tourism industry are all too familiar with the effect of major events on destinations after the stadiums go dark – the inevitable post-event dip…

The London 2012 Olympic Games flame has been extinguished, and the flag officially handed over to the proud hosts in 2016, Rio de Janeiro. As widely acknowledged, the London Games were a great success – showcasing both the warmth and eccentricity of the host nation whilst never detracting from the main event – the competitive beauty of each of the sporting disciplines. The world became transfixed on numerous emotional comebacks, stirring victories, new world records, along with the return of familiar favourites and the introduction to fresh fame-achieving faces.

For Britain, the 2012 Olympic were the greatest Olympic Games in more than a century.  Truthfully it was their greatest-ever, with an impressive collection of both unforgettable moments combined with gold, silver and bronze medals.  The country stands proud.

And for the moment, the floodlights are shinning on the London Paralympics. However, for us in the business of tourism, it is time to ask the real question – what impact will the Games have on increasing tourism demand?

Before and during the games we witnessed the effect of the local authorities’ warnings around Games-related traffic congestion, hassles of traveller movements, and general anticipated chaos that an additional 600,000 extra overseas visitors would have on the City. Ironically, because of these warnings, and the Games events being for the most part outside of the city itself, London was a pleasure. For the few non Game attendees, getting around, sight-seeing and dining reservations were never easier.

But back to the central question – I am concerned that after all of the great mood and spirit generated by the Games, there is little effective action been taken to capitalize on the glow.

Many of us are in the tourism industry are all too familiar with the effect of major events on destinations after the stadiums go dark – the inevitable post-event dip. After the closing ceremony fireworks end, the hotels empty out and frequently the travel industry grind to a halt, for months. In this instance, the focus of travelers will, unless inspired, move beyond London. London could quickly become last season…

What does this mean? We need to be clear of the impact – good and bad – of major events. And must plan and promote accordingly. Now is the time to ensure that post-event interest and activity is re-ignited. Now is the time to ensure that we sell destination London and the United Kingdom.  The medal count and sold out event has become meaningless for travellers. We need to make sure there is still reason to love London.

Hosting major events is a huge high for the travel industry. It is however our job to make sure that we manage the risks of altitude sickness. London, take action, let’s ensure that you don’t fall into the same trap as others host destinations.

Destination USA – Leading By Example

Every once in a while – a rare occurrence as of late, but it does happen – a powerful leader exercises authority by acting with incredible humility, expressing genuine desire to learn more about an issue that is growing in importance. Such a period of learning has taken place, surprisingly, in a nation historically not known for humility – the United States of America. The issue: the value of the Tourism industry to American jobs, earnings and general wellbeing.


Trafalgar USA It all started with a flippant statement made by President Obama in 2009 at the beginning of the global economic crisis. His comment was targeted at Watt Street bankers hosting expensive conferences in Las Vegas while Main Street citizens were losing their jobs and pensions. That relatively simple comment opened up a complex process of presidential ‘re-education’, with leaders of American travel companies and associations descending on the White House, united by the US Travel Association, to set the record straight: travel, conferences and holidays create American jobs, fuel the American economy, and strengthen American competitiveness. Travel is exactly what America, and Americans need to get the economy moving again. With one of the most sought after, diverse, naturally, historically and culturally rich destinations of travellers worldwide, the United States of America has an asset that must be put to work.Since then, and to his credit, the President has taken concrete, confident steps to put travel and tourism at the centre of the American economy. Major national initiatives, from the relaunch of Brand USA (first time all states have come together with one voice), the passing of a bill regarding step-changing visa facilitation, creation of ESTA (tourist tax), increasing Consulates to issue more Visa’s in China and now the recently launched National Travel and Tourism Strategy, Significant, strategic, steps of substance which will transform the national tourism industry, quickly.As recently expressed in a White House bulletin,: “Last year, 62 million international tourists visited the United States and pumped a record $153 billion into local economies, helping to support the 7.6 million jobs in our travel and tourism industry. These numbers make tourism America’s number one service export.”

Clearly the President ‘gets it’, and is focused on getting the industry working harder, smarter, stronger, together.

I am in fact currently travelling in the Unites Sates, on Trafalgar’s Historic Highlights. I am writing from the Nation’s Capital this morning – having spent yesterday with my fellow travellers awed by the beauty of the city, poignancy of its monuments and rich history. Speaking of which we leave for Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate this morning.

The global tourism community needs to take notice of this important act of leadership. Through concrete steps, the USA has ensured that it will break through destiantional clutter and showcase itself. And in doing so, positioned itself as one of the world’s loudest champions of the travel and tourism sector.

And now destination competitors!