One hundred tourism ministers from across the world took part in the top-level forum at WTM London, along with bosses from leading travel companies and organizations.
Industry leaders at the UNWTO and WTM Ministers’ Summit have called for global cooperation and collaboration to help destinations affected by terrorism and other crises.
Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization, described terrorism as “forces of darkness”.
“This world must become a better place and we must never allow forces of darkness to isolate us,” he said.
“We should never submit to the agenda of these people.
“No country is immune or 100% secure; this is a global challenge.”
He said it was important that care was taken when issuing travel advisories so that destinations affected by a crisis were not further penalized by the effect of the advice.
Fritz Joussen, Chief Executive of TUI, said security is a top priority but highlighted how people’s perceptions often compound the problems of terrorism.
“The probability of being killed by a terrorist is lower than having car accident on the way to the airport,” he told the summit.
He said security is the responsibility of governments but the industry should work in partnership with states “in difficult times and good times”.
Destinations often recovered quickly from crises such as a virus outbreak or natural disaster such as an earthquake, he said, but warned that terrorism is “very different”.
“It generates more toxic perceptions, and fear instead of diversity,” he told ministers.
“We need to overcome this, as it is a root cause for nationalism, building walls and being xenophobic – tourism can be a force for good.”
David Scowsill, Chief Executive and President at the World Travel and Tourism Council, said the industry must reassure consumers when a country has enhanced its security, such as in Egypt.
“I do not understand why the British government is refusing to let airlines fly back to Sharm el Sheikh,” he commented, adding that the German and Russian governments had given airlines permission to return to the Red Sea resort.
“Young people are losing their jobs, and moving to become radicalized or moving north to get on boats in the Mediterranean.”
Egypt’s tourism minister Mohamed Yehia Rashed assured delegates that his country has the technology and security measures in place to protect tourists.
He urged standard security measures to be introduced globally to be more effective.
“We need to create a sustained tourism environment, which creates jobs,” he said.
Vinod Zutshi, Secretary of Tourism in the government of India – WTM London’s Official Premier Partner – said countries needed to be more responsible when issuing travel advisories as perception of safety in destinations is a key factor.
Scowsill said it was vital that presidents and prime ministers understood the value of tourism in generating jobs and boosting economies.
With the summit taking place just hours after Donald Trump had been voted as president of the US, he said: “It is important to reflect that the Obama administration at first did not understand the impact of travel.
“An advisory group finally got through to the president, and once he understood it, policies introduced to make it better.
“We now have to start with new administration.”
Dr Rifai said the UNWTO will launch an online training program early next year, hoping to train more than one million employees in travel and tourism about security issues and crises such as natural disasters.
“It will raise awareness about security – for any individual in travel industry, from a bell boy or concierge or museum guide, to be aware and vigilant.”
This year’s event is the 10th ministers’ summit at WTM and is the largest gathering of tourism ministers outside the UNWTO ministers’ assembly.
WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “This event is unique and brings together public and private sectors together in a forum to discuss issues in the industry.
“Tourism and security, and promoting safe and seamless travel is a key issue.
“Tourism breaks down barriers, and it cannot be allowed to stagnate or be diminished.”
eTN is a media partner for WTM.