Editor’s Note: In the last two months, eTN has had the opportunity to attend three major global travel and tourism industry events. It has become evident that sharing with our readers the entire speech of key figures in these events to be of great interest. As such, please find below the speech of David Scowsill, president & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, delivered on 24 September 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, at the ongoing Africa Hotel Investment Forum:
“Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. Good afternoon.
“On behalf of the members of the World Travel & Tourism Council, I would like to extend our condolences to those who have suffered loss or injury during the terrible events of the past few days.
“Terrorism has come to Nairobi with a devastating impact.
“Our solidarity is with the citizens of Nairobi and Kenya as you come to terms with what has happened. This has been, in the words of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, a ‘totally reprehensible’ act of terrorism, targeted at defenseless civilians.
“Circumstances of such shock and grief can lead to a natural inclination to stop. To cease activities. To hide and retreat.
“I commend the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation for their decision to continue as planned and I am heartened by the great attendance at this conference.
“I am happy to have this opportunity, along with all of you, to show Travel & Tourism’s support for Kenya. This is not ‘business as usual’ without respect for the tragedy and loss, but a recognition that business must go on.
“To do otherwise would be to let the terrorists triumph.
“There is already speculation that this attack will affect tourism to Kenya. My message to you today is that it cannot.
“We cannot allow events such as these to stop the business of Travel & Tourism. It is a business which creates jobs, drives GDP growth and stimulates investment.
“In Kenya, our industry is a cornerstone of the economy. 1.8 million visitors in 2012. 12.5% of GDP, 1 in 10 jobs, 20% of exports. 7 billion US dollars (600 billion Kenyan Shillings) of investment forecast over the next ten years.
“In Africa our industry supports 9% of GDP, 1 in 14 jobs, and 8% of exports.
“Globally this amounts to US$6.6 trillion in GDP, 260 million jobs, US$760 billion in investment and US$1.2 trillion in exports.
“But it is not just about jobs and GDP. As Tony Blair said at our Asia Summit last month, “Travel & Tourism is an industry which can genuinely help to bring about not only more commerce and prosperity but more peace, security and understanding”
“Let’s pause on those last few words once again: “More peace, security and understanding.”
“In an increasingly interconnected world, we can choose a path of mutual understanding, or of conflict. Travel & Tourism brings people together, it allows us to build relationships, to understand other cultures and as such is a vehicle of diplomacy and trade.
“Travel & Tourism is a weapon in the war against terror.
“And it is a powerful weapon.
“Because above all, our industry is resilient.
“Over the past decade we have faced challenges in the shape of terrorism, natural disaster and man-made crises. On each occasion Travel & Tourism has returned to growth with remarkable speed. After the Japanese earthquake of March 2011, within a year domestic, outbound and international tourism was back to pre-disaster levels. Despite the financial meltdown in Europe in 2007/2008 Travel & Tourism has continued to grow, outpacing the wider economy. And terrorist attacks across the world, some of which were specifically aimed at our industry, have not thwarted growth.
“While other industries take time to recover from such shocks, Travel & Tourism can be up and running within days or even hours, as soon as the infrastructure to support it is there.
“It is not just about ensuring that hotel rooms are filled. Travel & Tourism can rebuild confidence in a wider sense. Confidence that a country is not only safe to visit but that it is a place to do business. Confidence to trade. Confidence to invest.
“It is crucial in these situations that a country remains open to tourism. The message has to be clear – tourists are welcome and safe in the destination, and they will have the positive experience they desire.
“And the KTDC has made a fantastically positive statement in this respect. These messages need to be echoed across government ministries in the coming weeks and months, with each playing its role to ensure the world knows that Kenya is open for business and visitors are welcome, and to ensure that this is reflected in the reality of their experience.
“But the strongest message does not come from the authorities. In these days of social media, the positive experience of tourists speaks louder than any official statement.
“I urge all my fellow delegates here at the African Hotel Investment Forum, and all those tourists who are currently in this beautiful country, to support Kenyans by telling the world that they are here and that they are having a good and safe time.
“As Kenya emerges from this tragedy the message we should be hearing is not one of a dangerous country beset by terrorism, but one where the people pull together to fight back against those who want to harm them. We must share the stories of mutual support – people queuing up to donate blood, delivering food to security forces at the scene – which reflect a nation which is proud, welcoming and hospitable.
“I for one am delighted to be here. Thank You.”