The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit 2013 in Abu Dhabi brought together global figureheads from the airline industry, academics and show business personalities and a former US president all of whom were keen to outline their idea of a global future joined and effectively served by airlines and airports through travel and tourism initiatives.
The WTTC event is designed as a high level forum for business leaders in the travel and tourism industry and annual conference has become the most important gathering in the yearly calendar of these executives. The WTT Global Summit 2013 saw airline industry leaders James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways and Willie Walsh, CEO International Airline Group (IAG) joined by former US president Bill Clinton and by Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Airline Association, in an initiative designed to drive exports and to generate prosperity in the tourism and airline businesses – and to achieve those goals airlines and airports must be given all the help they can get in order to be able to serve their customers well.
Government interference, taxes, service standards, the preservation of the environment and a lack of initiative in visa processing were all on the agenda with the speakers in Abu Dhabi.
IAG’s Walsh praised the air carriers in the Gulf region and held them up as examples to be admired and for European government leaders to learn from. Commentating on the poor record on the return on capital that the industry has, Walsh stated “nobody will provide the industry (with) equity if they are going to destroy it”.
For Etihad, Hogan recognised that his own airline was not restrained in its development by “the handcuffs of legacy airlines”, largely referring to union working constraints that exist with the established carriers. Tyler, for his part, provided an update on IATA targets for sustainability and slammed the inadequacies of air traffic control, particularly in Europe noting it as “a disgrace”.
In a keynote address to more than 1,000 delegates, former US president Bill Clinton urged airlines not to overlook “the potential of ancillary economic benefits generated via tourism”. He also highlighted “the challenges we have from climate change” and sustainability.
Clinton, who served as president for eight years during a time of unprecedented prosperity and change in the USA, said that the industry could also be a force for change in the future. “Peace works better than conflict, and one of the best manifestations of it is in travel and tourism,’` he said.
“I predict that we over the next 20 years the travel and tourism industry will lead a re-examination of our energy industry policies. The fact that you have such a great stake in a global stable environment gives you enormous credibility,” he observed.
Clinton remarked that the history of the 21st century had not yet been written implying that the travel and tourism industry could play a leading role in that scenario.
Other speakers at the WTTC Global Summit 2013 included British journalist and media personality Sir David Frost; Ian Goldin, University of Oxford Professor of Globalisation and Development; Daryl Hannah, the American actress and activist; environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt; Tom Klein,
president, Sabre Holdings; and adventurer and environmentalist David de Rothschild.
As the WTTC 2013 event drew to a close it was announced that Hainan would host the 2014 World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit.