David Scowsill has been President of the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) since 2010 and will soon be moving on to pastures new. He recently told an audience on Medium what he has witnessed over the last 7 years and what he believes is yet to come for the travel sector.Changing Politics
The political landscape of the globe has shifted dramatically since David took on the role. The Arab Spring changed the face of North Africa, terrorism has put a dampener across the whole industry and particularly in the West, and China and India have continued to carve out powerful new economic niches.Shifting Behaviours
Alongside the political changes, David has witnessed the move of consumers to the mobile web and the growing global understanding that climate change is real and that we must do something about it before it’s too late.
An Uncertain World And The Impact On Travel
David notes that this instability and uncertainty might have been expected to impact on the travel sector but in fact, travel and tourism growth has continued at a rate of 4% a year every year. He feels that the industry has seen plenty of disruption in the past and has positioned itself well to cope with the pace of change.
He notes that low cost carriers, Trip Advisor, the emergency of hotel aggregators online, etc. have imposed new ways of doing business in travel and tourism. However, he underscores the sectors’ resilience too, “But throughout this time, all sectors of the industry have weathered their storms, survived, pivoted their business models, and thrived. No large brand name has gone bankrupt, even with the competitive pressures and impacts of the global financial crisis.”
He also says, “This ability to adapt to market forces, respond to consumer demand and adopt new technologies is what I believe ensures the future of T&T, as the sector has to face up to the macro level challenges of our time, be they terrorism, climate change or the fourth industrial revolution.”
It is this facet of the sector that he believes ensures we can be optimistic about the future of travel and tourism.No Need To Fear Automation
David is keenly aware that artificial intelligence and robotics are making huge leaps forward and that many sectors are worried about losing work to robots. In tourism, he points out, this isn’t possible. “Service delivery requires a human touch, it is the people that ultimately define the experience whether you are travelling for business or leisure.”VR And Augmented Reality Are A Positive Addition To Life
It’s clear that David knows that you cannot replace the smell of a spring day on a mountain side with VR and augmented reality and for that reason he feels that these technologies will complement rather than threaten the industry. He sees the biggest potential in VR and augmented reality in training and education and opening up certain experiences to those unable to take advantage of them as they are now.
Changes In Communication
David sees no threat to business travel from electronic communications tools and indeed, he believes that they will enable better preparation for the all-important face-to-face meeting instead.
He does predict an end to tourism websites. He feels that the dominance of apps on the mobile web is simply too strong and it will wash away the need for websites in the long-term. That doesn’t change the need to provide information to consumers, it just means the industry will need to adapt to how consumers want that information today.A Call To Action
David signs off with a call to action. He wants the governments and industries of this world to realize that tourism can be a force for good. He wants the industry to demonstrate this clearly to the decision makers and policymakers of the world too.
He sees sustainable development and measured, rational policy development as the critical concern of the future. When nearly 300 million people’s jobs depend on tourism and more than 1.2 billion people a year are involved in being tourists themselves; David sees it as essential that everyone involved comes together to “ensure that travel, be it for business or leisure, continues to improve lives, protect the planet and be a force for peace, security and understanding in an ever more uncertain world.”