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All-Star ITIC Virtual Tourism Investment Summit a success

All-star tourism conference will set tone for WTM
All-star tourism conference

The ITIC Investment Summit ended yesterday with representatives from all sectors of travel and tourism. The discussion was looking for ways to boost business recovery and restore traveller confidence.

ITIC Investment Summit – called Invest, Finance and Rebuild the Travel and Tourism Industry – was a coming together of finance experts, analysts, tourism ministers, aviation bodies and hoteliers, among other sectors.

The World Tourism Network was a partner, eTurboNews a media partner.

Professor Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University, said the world would see a decline of -6% this year, with the UK at -10%, France and Spain at -11%-12% and the US at -7%, but he expected to see a rebound next year, even without the recent news that a possible vaccine is on its way.

By 2025, most developed countries will be back to pre-COVID economy levels.

Dr Taleb Rifai, Chairman of ITIC and former Secretary-General UNWTO said:

“This crisis has taught us that we have to travel very, very responsibly. The idea of over tourism, which was so prevalent before will disappear, I’m sure. Governments were so preoccupied with growth and business they didn’t listen to this. Travel is going to come back very strongly, but it will come back in a new way.”

Among speakers who have ‘pivoted’ their business, was Sir Tim Clark, President of the airline Emirates, who explained how the carrier is offering COVID insurance for passengers, which will cover their medical expenses, as well as changing emphasis from flying passengers to flying medical equipment and PPE around the globe and is looking at flying the vaccine to different parts of the world when it is approved for global use.

Meanwhile, Dubai Airports CEO, Paul Griffiths, said replacing retail units with cinemas and bowling alleys could be a way to claw back revenue that he fears could be lost forever as more people move to online shopping after COVID-19.

He’s also considering an in-flight digital catalogue system where passengers browse for products at their leisure, order them, then pick them up on arrival at the airport. 

He said: “A sinister long-term effect of COVID is that on-line retail has done really well. Airlines and airports need to think of a new model.

“It takes 24 minutes to consider a duty free purchase. Let’s use that eight to 10-hour flight before people arrive at the airport to select from a digital catalogue, then pick their purchases up when they land.”

He told airlines: “You provide us with the customers and you can land for free.”

Speaking from a global hotel group’s perspective, Simon Vincent, President Hilton, EMEA, said leisure business started to return in Q3 adding: “There is clearly a lot of pent-up demand, but travellers need confidence.”

Delegates were in agreement that testing is crucial to kick-starting confidence among flyers, business travellers and leisure visitors.

Another concern, expressed by Nicolas Mayer, Global Tourism Leader at PWC, is the huge loss of talent in the global travel industry.

Hilton’s Simon Vincent said trying keep staff was a major challenge: “We have 400,000+ team members on a global basis. We are trying to hold on to them. They have been doing an amazing job in difficult circumstances,” he said. 

And Dale Keller, CEO, Board of Airline Representatives UK warned talk of a recovery was premature: “We talk about a recovery. We haven’t even got through the restart yet,” he said. 

Other highlights included:

·         Business travel will stay at 10-20% of previous levels for some time and it will be done more strategically – for final closure of deals, for example, according to Prof Ian Goldin.

·         60% of Hilton’s global network in Europe and the Middle East was closed at beginning of pandemic, now it’s 85% open.

·         Saudi Arabia wants tourism to generate 10% of GDP contribution, creating 1 million jobs and attracting 100 million visitors to the kingdom and aims to be one of the top-five destinations globally by 2030.

·         54% of people employed in tourism are women, according to Catheryn Khoo-Latimore, Associate Professor at Griffin University in Australia