Pre G20 tourism summit discussed ways to promote the industry in the Americas
Public and private sector tourism leaders gathered in Mexico for the Americas Summit of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), a networking and discussion forum held at Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula.
The event, which took place from May 16-18, was preceded by a ministerial meeting in Merida where tourism ministers from the region discussed challenges and opportunities in the global travel industry and provided recommendations for the upcoming G-20 meeting in June in Mexico, which will reunite the world’s largest economies, together representing over 80% of global GDP.
This year, Chile attended the Ministerial (T-20) for the first time as a special invitee of the G-20. Representing Chile at the event was Undersecretary of Tourism Jacqueline Plass, who shared her thoughts on the ministerial and conference with The Santiago Times.
“A key concern shared among the countries here at the conference is the need to generate increased employment in the tourism sector, especially at the regional level, and particularly for young people,” Plass said. “This is an important objective in Chile as well.”
“And here we are talking about quality jobs,” she added, “which means that we need to discuss as a country the possibility of having more flexible employment legislation for the tourism industry in Chile”.
Chile has experienced sustained growth in tourism in recent years. During the first three months of 2012, the number of visitors to the country rose 14% from the same period a year ago. Mexican President Felipe Calderón noted that only Chile exceeded Mexico’s recent percentage growth in the tourism sector in his address to WTTC participants.
Carlos Slim, the world’s wealthiest individual according to Forbes magazine, also spoke to Chile’s economic fortitude, predicting that Chile is among 10-15 countries that will become a developed country within a generation, before Mexico achieves the same status.
The travel and tourism industry plays a key role in economies across the Americas. Regionally, it generates a total 250 billion dollars in exports, contributes 9% of GDP and supports 1 in 10 jobs.
Prominent among the concerns of the speakers at the conference were obstacles to travel and tourism caused by visa requirements in certain countries. According to recent studies of the WTTC and the UNWTO, visa facilitation can play a pivotal role in stimulating economic growth and job creation through expanded tourism.
Preliminary findings show that of the 656 million international tourists who visited G20 countries in 2011, 110 million needed a visa, while millions more were deterred from travelling by the cost, waiting time and difficulty of obtaining a visa. According to the study, facilitating visas for these tourists could create over 5 million additional jobs in the G20 economies by 2015 and generate an additional 206 billion dollars in revenue.
Another overriding theme at the conference was sustainable tourism. Speaking to that issue was Hollywood legend Robert Redford, who delighted a rapt audience during remarks ranging from his California childhood, his career in the movies and his commitment to environmental sustainability.
Redford emphasized the need to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection, without sacrificing either.
“Tourism is a wonderful business, and it brings great adventure and experiences to people all over the world,” he said.
Redford noted that a dynamic change was happening in tourism that could make all the difference in the broader economic impact of the industry.
“There’s been a separation between tourism and sustainability”, he added “(but) the dialogue is changing to a more positive (notion) that you can have both sustainability and tourism”.
By Rick Helm – The Santiago Times