On Tourism & Security
Global security and terrorism is the overriding concern of Travel & Tourism industry leaders from both public and private sectors.
Travel & Tourism has to ensure that freedom to travel is maintained by engaging with security agencies, investing in technological solutions, and ensuring mechanisms are in place for effective crisis response.
Global security and terrorism emerged as the overriding concern of Travel & Tourism leaders from both the public and private sectors at the WTTC Global Summit in Dallas. Discussions focused not only on the impact of terrorist attacks themselves, but the impact of government reaction to attacks, and what needs to be done to ensure ‘safe, secure and seamless’ travel in the future.
Speakers, while recognising the devastation terrorist attacks incur to destinations and individuals affected, agreed that Travel & Tourism is broadly speaking resilient. Desiree Bollier, CEO of Value Retail, told delegates that footfall in their Village near Brussels returned to pre-attack levels within a week. The impact of the Paris attacks was greater, but by January (two months after the attack) footfall was at record levels. Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel, highlighted that consumers are changing their destinations but not cancelling travel plans altogether.
The much greater risk to the Travel & Tourism sector is that of the reaction, or perhaps overreaction, of governments and the media to terrorist attacks. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International talked of the ‘instinct to isolate’ and Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Carribbean Cruises, highlighted that ‘it is easier to convey a message of fear than one of safety or progress’.
Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of UNWTO highlighted ‘the danger in many parts of the world of people capitalising on fear’.
US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, shared the challenge from a government perspective by highlighting the dynamic nature of the threat. The DHS focused last year on screening passengers leaving for other destinations. But the Brussels attack has shown that an airport as a location is something to be concerned about as well.
With the US’s visa waiver programme and the EU’s Schengen agreement both at risk there is a pressing concern that the significant progress made in visa facilitation over recent years will be undone. However, there is a huge opportunity for the Travel & Tourism sector to be a significant player in finding the solution, as identified by Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Worldwide: We should ensure that people cross borders and use that to collect information - information that could not be collected otherwise - to make the world safer.
There was consensus that Travel & Tourism does indeed have an important role to play, most significantly in the area of data sharing. Penny Pritzker, US Secretary of Commerce, highlighted the need to develop international systems to share data, including Passenger Name Records and emphasised that travel can work hand in hand with national security.
She issued an urgent call to action for the sector to help ensure the future of the visa waiver programme. She urged CEOs to work with their governments to facilitate the necessary improvements in data and security that are required for visa waiver to evolve.
There are further opportunities to develop and promote trusted traveller programmes. In the words of Roger Dow, CEO of the US Travel Association, ‘focus resources on finding the bad guy, leave good people with less hassle’.
Safety and security is going to remain high on the agendas of CEOs and tourism ministers for the foreseeable future. The overriding message from Dallas was that Travel & Tourism as a global industry needs to engage at the highest level and assert itself as part of the global solution to what is, without doubt, a global problem.