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Wartime Tourism Predictions by WTN Members: No Fancy Reports here

, Wartime Tourism Predictions by WTN Members: No Fancy Reports here, eTurboNews | eTN
WTN Members at TIME 2023 in Bali September 30, 2023

The last 3 months were busy for leaders in global tourism, but did they really catch up with the reality of wartime tourism?


TIME 2023, the first global summit for the World Tourism Network met in Bali in September, a day after World Tourism Day in Saudi Arabia.

This was followed by the UNWTO General Assembly in Uzbekistan in October, IMEX America took place in Las Vegas, and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) just finished its global summit in Rwanda.

The World Travel Market in London will open its doors tomorrow, and tourism will show up in full force. This specifically includes Saudi Arabia and the splash this one country is about to create in London, creating a positive example for the future of this sector.

To get impressive results for such events, impressive research studies were produced, but the landscape in travel and tourism had changed from the time such reports had concluded and the current reality may have not caught up when ministers, CEOs of large travel and tourism companies, and other industry celebrities met over gala dinners and discussion sessions.

No Inclusivity expected at the Ministers’ Summit at World Travel Market in association with UNWTO and WTTC

There could be of course a second chance in London at WTM, including the UNWTO / WTTC Ministerial Summit, where the World Tourism Organization is so worried about eTurboNews reporting a real story, that the Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili banned eTN for the third year to join other more friendly media.

The Ministers’ Summit at World Travel Market in association with UNWTO and WTTC will be discussing: Transforming Tourism Through Youth and Education

Tourism is Strong and Will Get Stronger: The Official Version

The official message, discussion, and reports all talk about how strong tourism is and the expectation for future business that comes with wishful thinking, or the research done based on a time scenario when the world looked a little different.

World Tourism Network wants to hear it from the people on the frontline

The World Tourism Network, an association catering to SMEs in 133 countries of the global travel and tourism industry went out to the field to get some feedback from those on the front line of selling travel.

How does the reality feel for those Small and Medium Size Travel and Tourism Businesses, that are not often taking part in the big political discussions? How do industry movers and shakers feel that run their day-to-day business and are struggling to meet payroll and rent – and often still recover from Covid?

The answer is uncertain, and no one seems to think about those fancy reports. Surviving and dealing with a new reality is the goal.

World Tourism Network, an advocate for Small and Medium-sized travel and tourism companies contacted stakeholders in various parts of the world to get first-hand feedback.

Two ongoing deadly Wars and tourism

Two ongoing wars in Ukraine and Israel changed the landscape after some of the reports presented in Uzbekistan, Rwanda, and most likely in London for WTM next week.

Resilience in Tourism

According to Minister of Tourism Bartlett from Jamaica, tourism is resilient. But how resilient will it be in the current uncertain geo-political environment? There will certainly be big winners and big losers.

How does a DMC in Croatia see the current situation of wartime tourism?

PENTA in Zagreb, Croatia is known as a to-go organization in Europe and in the meeting and incentive market able to create great events and conferences. The company is also known as a leading DMC in Croatia.

Silva Usic, the manager of the DMC Department at PENTA Meeting, Conference and Events told eTurboNews, that the two wars between Ukraine and Russia, and Israel / Palestine are already greatly affecting her business.

She said on a map the distance is only an inch away, and nobody wants to send an incentive tour to areas near war zones.

“This year we experienced only one-third of last year’s income. Our main clients come from South America, so they all prefer to travel “vertically” to destinations such as Canada, or the United States, rather than invest in transatlantic flights.

“I spoke to a colleague from the United Arab Emirates. He confirmed the same. The bottom line is we only made one-third of last year’s profit. 2022 was an exceptionally good year. We simply cannot predict what is going on for the next year or beyond.

What could tourism leaders do to mitigate the situation?

“I personally can not say what can be done. No one can guarantee anything, right? You cannot say, OK, there is a war 2 or 3 hours flight distance away, but never mind, just come and enjoy our country, right?

“You need to be sensitive to the people who are suffering from the war in the war zones. When I think back, being in a Liberation war in Croatia back in 1993 for example, I could not know if Austria, Italy, or Greece experienced fewer tourists in those years.

What are your plans, and policy changes during the current travel and tourism environment?

We can just touch base with all the contacts we have made during the last few years and send them an email asking: how are you doing? Have you suffered from the global situation? We assure them that our country is still a safe destination and welcomes visitors.

“At Corona times we dealt with two scenarios: The hotel gave back the deposits paid or they retained the deposits and offered guests to come back the next year.

“Of course, this did not always please clients. I am not sure clients would like to plan one year in advance and then we might have a scenario like this again. Requests are being sent for traveling last minute. Yet, I am experiencing that May next year is already fully booked. The bottom line, the situation is very uncertain.

French DMC shared its concern

Cyrilde Fontenay from Paris Key DMC shared this concern:

For Ukraine, Russia, and Israel, changes are dramatic. Also probably for Jordan and most surrounding Muslim countries in the Middle East.

If the war is contained to where it is now, it might bring extra clients away from destinations close to war zones to relocate to calmer destinations. If the war spreads out as it might, the first industry to be hit will be tourism, and it will probably be worldwide, with much fewer clients wishing to travel.

Tourism has no say here

Politicians and only politicians are on the front line. We depend on peace to do our work in tourism. Tourism leaders will have no say in these different wars.

We can only wait and see. Relief in dramatic situations also depends on states, international organizations, and specialized institutions like the Red Cross, and the Médecins du Monde. Helping the latter would no doubt be useful and I see it as the only help the tourism industry could bring that could have a positive impact.

What are your plans, and policy changes during the current travel and tourism environment

No critical policy change: just adapt to the situation. Obviously no sales trips in and around war zones.

How you may be able to capitalize on the situation?

Frank Comito from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Inc. has a simple solution for his region:

Capitalize on our value as an ‘escape’ from the world’s challenges.

About the author


Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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