Reflections on the WTTC Annual Global Summit in Dallas and the Mission of Tourism Cares
My recent travels over the past two months have taken me from Dallas to Beijing to attend and engage in several important global travel industry meetings. I find it important to be involved in these gatherings, as one gets to meet and network with various global and local industry leaders, as well as obtain different and new perspectives and trends about our industry and the world at large.
I will first write about Dallas and then my next blog will address the Beijing visit in about ten days time. I was in the beautiful, dynamic and vibrant city of Dallas to attend The World Travel and Tourism Council’s annual Global Summit (see below). The day before this Summit began, about 100 delegates from around the world (from the local community and other US cities, and as far away as Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Mongolia) came together to demonstrate that our industry actively cares about our planet and local communities, and demonstrates this with actions as well as active discussion and debate. Together with Tourism Cares, WTTC organizes this annual event to leave a positive impact on the local community by rolling up our sleeves and reducing our carbon footprint. We planted indigenous materials and participated in cleanup projects.
For 2016, the Dallas host committee, led by the CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, Phillip Jones and Sean Donahue of the Dallas/Forth Worth Airport chose the Trinity River Audubon Center. The Center welcomes thousands of visitors each year with more than 25,000 of those visitors being school children who explore the center’s hiking trails and wetlands to learn about the natural world and the role of conservation. With only 12 full-time employees and more than 120 acres of the nation’s largest urban hardwood forest to maintain, the staff relies on the help of volunteers to conserve the natural space and make it available for future visitors. We worked, side-by-side, in organized teams to plant new trees and native grasses and trail maintenance around the center. It was the largest gathering of volunteers working on the site since its opening in 2008.
The next day, I was energized when the summit began. WTTC’s members represent some of the most important companies and industry leaders in travel and tourism. The Council promotes sustainable growth for the industry, working with governments and international institutions to create jobs, generate prosperity (our industry generates almost 10% of global GDP, and employs over 265 million people around the world) and brings better understanding and appreciation of the world’s many diverse cultures. WTTC’s annual Global Summit brings together delegates to discuss the opportunities, challenges and issues facing the industry, while its “Tourism for Tomorrow” Awards recognize the industry’s power and ability to be a positive force for sustainability.
The theme of the Summit was “Travel Beyond Boundaries” and the focus of the two-day meetings and panel discussions were the influence of the recent geopolitical shifts, global sustainability accords, technological developments together with more informed and engaged consumers. These issues all transform the way business works and transacts today. Thus, the Summit showcased how businesses and governments are taking big and bold actions needed to truly lead the innovation of systems, processes, services and products required to try and capitalize on the opportunities and meet the challenges of today, in a sustainable and appropriate manner.
In the 25th year of the founding of WTTC, we also had the opportunity to recognize three of the original founders of the Council – Bill Marriott (Chairman of Marriott Corp., who are about to acquire Starwood Hotels as well), James Robinson (then CEO of American Express, and now retired) and Robert Crandall (then CEO of American Airlines, and now retired).
It was a very engaging gathering with the various panels and speeches (including from US Secretary of State Penny Pritzker, world renowned economist and social enterprise activist Jeffrey Sachs joined by video link, and Barry Diller of IAC, owner of Expedia, QVC and other digital businesses) highlighting many important trends, challenges and opportunities. If interested, one can watch some of the videos and the outtakes, including a brief presentation that I made about the importance of all aspects and nuances of communications today, on the WTTC website here. These meetings are important and I was pleased to have attended. Next year’s gathering is in Bangkok from April 26th to the 27th.
All the best and happy travels,