European open borders signal supports world leaders at WTTC: Travel Weekly
CANCUN – The opening session of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) first post-pandemic global summit featured a video of children around the world explaining how much they missed sharing their culture with visitors . It ended with a young boy saying, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Indeed, that seemed to be the overwhelming consensus among the more than 600 people who gathered here for the three-day conference this week, the first large in-person gathering of travel and tourism leaders since Covid-19 shut down trips to much of the world. .
“Although we haven’t gone through it, we are on the verge of recovery,” said Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton and Chairman of the WTTC, in what he said was his first speech to a live audience. for more than a year. “It is important that we work together to come together.”
This underlying optimism – evidenced by the conference theme “Uniting the World for Recovery” – was reinforced on opening day by the announcement of the reopening of the European Union to vaccinated travelers this summer. .
While the WTTC and groups like the US Travel Association have repeatedly stated that they oppose vaccination mandates for travel, the news has nonetheless been applauded by members and delegates keen to avoid losing. another summer of tourism.
Spain’s tourism secretary Fernando Valdes Verelst called the news “excellent”. But he stressed in an interview with Travel Weekly that it is now crucial that the bloc of 27 countries consider developing a digital certification program to verify the work of vaccinated travelers.
“We cannot fail in this process; we cannot take three steps back if it turns out that people are not certified by reliable authorities,” he said. “You must have the vaccination proven by a public authority.”
The EU has said it hopes to have its certification program ready by June, although no official date has been set for the borders to open. Individual countries can still set their own policies, but officials here seemed convinced that the bloc had finally reached an agreement on common policies and protocols. Some countries like Greece, Iceland and Croatia are already open or are preparing to open.
Gloria Guevara, CEO of WTTC. Photo credit: Courtesy of WTTC
In a virtual summit address, French President Emmanuel Macron said his government was also working hard to reopen his country and territories.
“I would love to welcome you to Paris before the end of the year to discuss how to work together for recovery,” Macron said.
Valdes said tourism-dependent countries have started pushing for the regional reopening after seeing the US, UK and Israel act swiftly with vaccines. “We saw the need to put this in place,” he said.
A stumbling block was that members of the European Commission who are not dependent on tourism were unwilling to make sightseeing a priority, Valdes said. But a breakthrough came at a meeting in late February, when countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece convinced others that 2021 couldn’t be a repeat of 2020 with uncoordinated regulation, he said. he declares. Successful vaccine deployments have opened the door to a safe reopening.
Valdes said he hoped more such announcements would follow.
Asked whether this move would put pressure on the United States to open its borders as well, Harry Theocharis, Greece’s tourism minister, said: “We think you can’t wait for reciprocity. We have says it’s our system, and the pressure is going to be on other governments. ”
While news of Europe’s reopening has been hailed as an important step towards recovery, tourism officials from both the public and private sectors have agreed that the booming rebound that most hope cannot happen until the fear and uncertainty will not be eliminated from the travel equation.
“We need a declaration from the World Health Organization that traveling is not a greater risk if you follow the rules,” Portugal’s tourism secretary Rita Marques said at the summit.
Marques said that throughout the pandemic there have been “loud reactions that have put the industry at risk and increased the perception [of] the risk “of traveling.
Moving forward, she said, the public and private sectors need to communicate more clearly and confidently that travel can be done safely.
But the public and private sectors must also unite to push for more uniform global rules governing testing, vaccines, quarantines and digital health records so travelers can book worry-free travel, participants said. during round tables.
Daniel Richards, founder and CEO of Global Rescue, said successful vaccination campaigns eliminate the fear of getting sick for many. And companies like his can provide insurance and a way to get people home if they get Covid-19.
But the private sector alone, he said, “cannot remove the uncertainty from the travel experience. It is up to governments. [We need] some level of coordination between governments so that when travelers start booking this trip, start talking about it, [they] are guaranteed that they will not remain in quarantine. “
The WTTC closed its summit by pledging to strengthen the representation of women in industry leadership.
The WTTC closed its summit by committing to work for women’s equality and to strengthen the representation of women in leadership positions in the industry.
“As the first woman President and CEO of the WTTC, it is an honor to champion this important initiative,” said Gloria Guevara, Director of the WTTC.
While women make up 54% of the industry’s workforce, “ globally, women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which has exacerbated the pay gap, the pay gap. ‘opportunities and the shocking lack of leadership and leadership positions in the travel and tourism industry, “Guevara said.” This needs to be changed.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova joined the closing session to launch the women’s empowerment initiative.
“Women have always had to outdo men, and even if things change for the better, it’s still a struggle and a constant battle,” Navratilova said.
Guevara also announced that the WTTC is planning to hold next year’s world summit in the Philippines.