The travel and tourism sector should show the leadership required to keep people travelling despite concerns over security and the movement of refugees.
“We are trying to break the boundaries, but others are doing the opposite, building border walls,” said the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) president and chief executive officer David Scowsill.
He challenged the global travel and tourism industry to double their efforts and “go further than we have ever gone before in championing and resolving the big issues of our age. Let’s claim the leadership position.”
Globally, the travel and tourism sector contributes $7.2 trillion annually, almost 10 per cent of the world’s GDP, and accounts for 284 million jobs, 9.5 per cent of total employment or one in eleven of all jobs on the planet, making it a powerful contributor to the global economy, Scowsill said in a statement from WTTC secretariat.
“We account for 6 per cent of all exports and 4 per cent of all investment,” he added.
In Africa as a whole, the sector is a highly attractive growth industry, and it is responsible for 8.1 per cent of GDP and it is forecast to rise at 4.9 per cent per annum until 2025, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Similarly, Rwanda’s tourism sector continues to grow positioning itself as the leading foreign earner for the country.
During the financial year 2013/14, the sector registered a three per cent increase in the number of visitors to Rwanda, growing from 1.14 million visitors to 1.2 million visitors. This accounted for an increase in revenue to $303 million in 2014 from $293.4 million in 2013.
The country recorded $317 million (about Rwf247.9 billion) receipts from tourism in 2015, making the sector the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner. It also exceeded last year’s earnings target by $5 million to generate $39 million in revenues and income, according to Rwanda Development Board statistics.
Rwanda will host key global conferences in Kigali this year, including the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), the World Economic Forum on Africa, as well as African Union Summit.
Scowsill was optimistic that the sector will continue to growing at a higher rate than world GDP, and creating more jobs.
“We are also committed to protecting the world’s natural resources. In an uncertain world driven by conflict, fear, climate change and resource scarcity, it is our sector to which governments can look for economic certainty,” he told the delegates while closing the WTTC Global Summit in Dallas, Texas in the US last week.
He said tourism holds the key to global economic sustainability, innovation, job-creation, and economic generation.
He challenged world leaders “to step up to harness the opportunities of travel and tourism and for the leaders of our sector to embrace that opportunity.”
“The key issue we have addressed is the implication for freedom to travel of the twin threats of terrorism and the movement of displaced peoples. Global problems require a global response. That is why we welcome the challenge laid down by the US government for the public and the private sectors to work together, to improve radically inter-agency cooperation and the sharing of information across the world,” Scowsill said.
Scowsill had at the start of the organisation’s annual global summit, urged world governments, especially in Europe and America, not to close their borders to migrants because of terrorism.
“Closing borders and jeopardising the freedom to travel is not the answer to the current security concerns. World leaders need to stand together and act now, with the support of the travel and tourism sector,” he told the assembled private and public sector delegates at the conference in Dallas, Texas in the US.
Scowsill argued that though the combination of global terrorism and an international refugee crisis was creating an unprecedented threat, closing our borders and jeopardising our freedom to travel was not the solution. “We have to prevent an overreaction from governments.”
The two-day WTTC Global Summit brought together travel and tourism leaders, who discussed the pressing issues affecting the sector today; notably safety and security, sustainability, and the influence of recent geopolitical shifts and technological developments, according to the WTTC statement.
WTTC’s annual Global Summit brings together over 800 delegates to discuss the opportunities, challenges and issues facing the industry, while its Tourism for Tomorrow Awards recognise the industry’s power to be a positive force in sustainability.
Next year, the WTTC Global Summit will take place from April 26-27 in Bangkok.