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WTTC chiefs backing present economic trends PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 20 April 2008

Global tourism leaders gather Sunday in Dubai to plot future strategy for an industry which, despite a slight downward revision of annual growth estimates, is easily bucking present economic trends, reports AFP.

When some 1,000 delegates gather for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) summit in the jewel of the United Arab Emirates—a perfect symbol for the sector’s transformative power—talk will likely focus on ensuring adequate infrastructure for future growth and mitigating tourism’s environmental impact.

Airlines, tour operators and hotel chains will be joined by around 40 government ministers as the WTTC—which began as a select club in 1990 by the chiefs of Amex, Accor, British Airways and American Airlines—comes truly of age.

WTTC projections show tourism will this year generate 5.3 trillion euros (8.4 trillion dollars) in revenue despite the revised growth projection of three percent compared to 3.9 percent in 2007.

That represents almost 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), providing employment for 238 million people worldwide. And all this despite the global credit crunch, the spectre of recession in the United States, surging oil and food prices and worries over climate change... each of which have played their part in trimming initial growth projections of 4.6 percent. “Over the next ten years, we will see an explosion in activity throughout our sector,” the president of this London- based organisation, Jean-Paul Baumgarten, told AFP.

“It’s up to us to see this industry develop responsibly,” he added. By 2018, the WTTC expects annual tourism expenditure to rise by an average of 4.4 percent.

Baumgarten cites a tourism “boom” fuelled by emerging economic powerhouses in China, India, Russia and the Middle East, although he recognises the sector faces its challenges, not least the carbon footprint left by the ongoing exponential growth in air travel.

“We are part of the problem because our industry is responsible for between 11 and 12 percent of (all) CO2 emissions, but we are also part of the solution,” he added, with an eye on one of the major themes of the Dubai conference, which runs through Tuesday.

Another major issue up for discussion is the eternal question of how to develop national tourist infrastructures in line with demand, with Baumgarten speaking of “great concern” within his body at the “lack of planning (shown) by the majority of governments around the world.”

Dubai, he said, offers an example to all, with the UAE government “turning a desert into a destination,” he added. Difficulties in recruitment within different branches of the industry could also put the brakes on its growth, with Baumgarten saying that the two giants of the sector, the United States and China, are suffering from a shortage of qualified staff.

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