5 Key Takeaways from #UFICongress Keynote – Travel is the key for recovery
“It is crucial to work together to align ourselves, especially during this recovery,” said Gloria Guevara Manzo, President & CEO at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), during a live keynote at the UFI Global Congress Americas Programme. She presented the latest WTCC research, outlined the organization’s efforts to jumpstart the recovery for the sector, and provided key learnings from previous crises as they relate to the current pandemic.
The backstory: In 2019, the travel and tourism sector represented 10.3% of global GDP or $1.2 trillion USD, growing 3.5% year-over-year — outpacing the 2.5% growth rate of the global economy. From March through November 2020, the sector has lost 142.6 million jobs (-43%), and GDP loss is $3,815 billion USD (-43%). International arrivals are down 65% while domestic arrivals are down 33%.
Manzo offered many insights for the virtual audience, but here are my top five takeaways:
- Coordinated, consistent efforts will help the industry rebound faster. “We need to learn from the past,” Manzo said. WTCC analyzed the data from 90 crises — including political instability, natural disasters, terrorism and disease —which occurred from 2001 to 2018. Recovery following diseases or outbreaks like SARS, MERS and Ebola averaged 19.4 months while the minimum was 10 months. “When we work together through private-public collaborations and have international coordination, we have recovered faster,” she said. “If we have different protocols, it will take longer.”
- Recovery is possible without a vaccine. “With SARS, China was able to recover without a vaccine,” Manzo said. “We need to learn what they did in terms of isolation and what they are doing now because the reality is China has already recovered domestically.” Before the vaccine, WTTC recommends investing in extensive, rapid (less than one hour), reliable (97%+), low-cost testing before departure.
- Testing and tracing is part of the solution. At the G20 Tourism Ministers Summit in October, WTCC launched its 100 million job recovery plan to reactivate the sector, and a key element includes adopting a policy of rapid COVID-19 testing as an alternative to quarantine. “We need an internationally agreed upon testing framework and tracing based on risk assessment,” Manzo said.
- Government support is critical. “We need to reopen borders in an international coordinated way between the public and private sector and other countries,” she said. “We need to remove travel barriers and quarantines. We should eliminate travel advisories and bans on non-essential international travel.”
- The travel experience needs to be the seemless to rebuild trust. “We can enhance the traveler experience by adding a health component and using technology,” she said. “We need to provide consistency, reduce risk and build confidence that it is safe to travel again.”
The bottom line: Resumption of international travel is paramount not only for the exhibition industry but also the global economic recovery. Over the last five years, one in four of all new jobs created came from travel and tourism. “We can’t wait for a vaccine,” she said. “We have to use testing, tracing and isolation in a coordinated effort.”
Danica Tormohlen is a journalist who has covered the trade show industry since 1994. Currently, she works on assignment for UFI, PCMA’s Convene Magazine, SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers) and Go LIVE Together. Previously, she served as editor at large at Trade Show Executive for 10 years, and as Editor-In-Chief and Publisher of EXPO magazine, where she worked for 16 years. Earlier this year, Danica earned three journalism awards for editorial excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.