The WTTC has called for action to safeguard the health of the Travel & Tourism economy in light of continued travel disruption caused by volcanic ash. It is time for governments to step in as it has done in previous natural crises.
"While public safety must be paramount, decisions must not be made lightly as they can have serious impact on the US$5,751 billion Travel & Tourism economy," says President & CEO Jean-Claude Baumgarten. "Although it represents 9.2% of world GDP and employs 235 million people worldwide, its influence on nearly every facet of our lives is rarely appreciated by governments until a crisis occurs. A co-ordinated approach to assessing the situation and implementing recovery measures is crucial for the sake of travellers and business alike.
"We believe fairer attention must be given to the aviation industry, which was just beginning to find its feet again after the affects of 9/11 and economic recession, and is now facing the double whammy of loss of business coupled with compensation costs for stranded passengers. It is still too early to assess the full economic impact of the problem, but without action – and soon – to reopen airspace, there will be serious implications for all sectors of Travel & Tourism."
WTTC Members – including airlines, hotels and tour operators – are already doing their utmost to get travellers where they need to be. Recent crises – 9/11, SARS, Swine and Avian flu, tsunamis, earthquakes and now the volcanic ash cloud – have all impacted the Travel & Tourism economy over the last decade. However legislation that could help the industry recover its losses is controlled through many different places and sometimes restricts trade rather than benefits it.
Governments must now intervene as the financial burden of the current crisis is too great for the private sector to bear.
"It is time for governments and organisations such as the United Nations, European Commission, G8 and G20, to re-examine the way policies that affect global Travel & Tourism are co-ordinated and implemented." An important step forward, says Baumgarten, would be the introduction of centralised air traffic control for the whole of Europe, which could reduce the need for blanket bans on flights in the future.
WTTC is urging the world's leaders to attend its 10th annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Beijing, China from 25-27 May 2010. "Now is the perfect time for leaders of government to come to the table with the leaders of private-sector organisations and gain a greater understanding of the industry and the issues that affect it. Participation in discussions would demonstrate government appreciation of the importance of Travel & Tourism, and could significantly enhance the industry's ability to drive economic prosperity."