x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Abu Dhabi opens its doors to 'Davos of the tourism industry'

Top executives arrive in the capital today for the World Travel and Tourism Council, the most important industry summit of the year.

Preparation was under way at Etihad Towers in the capital yesterday for the World Travel and Tourism Council, the most important summit in the industry. One of the first topics to be discussed at this year’s event will be how to cater for the increasing number of international travellers. Pawan Singh / The National
Preparation was under way at Etihad Towers in the capital yesterday for the World Travel and Tourism Council, the most important summit in the industry. One of the first topics to be discussed at this year’s event will be how to cater for the increasing number of international travellers. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Top executives arrive in the capital today for the World Travel and Tourism Council, the most important industry summit of the year.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to showcase Abu Dhabi to the world's travel and tourism leaders both in the public and private sectors," said David Scowsill, the council's president and chief executive."All the chairmen and chief executives of these businesses – airlines, hotels, cruises and car rentals – they don't get to meet each other during the course of the year.

"It's kind of like the Davos of the travel and tourism industry."

Travel and tourism accounts for 9 per cent of global GDP and employs one in 11 people.

Annual industry growth of between 3 and 4 per cent has consistently outpaced global economic growth over the past 30 years.

Growth of 4 to 4.5 per cent is forecast over the next 10 years.

Last year marked a big milestone with 1 billion tourists travelling internationally for the first time.

One of the topics at this year's summit will be how to cater for an increasing number of international travellers.

"That curve of travellers is going to grow exponentially," Mr Scowsill said.

"There is something like two billion middle-class consumers coming into the marketplace in the next 20 years – most of those in China – so the second billion will arrive faster than the first billion."

Mr Scowsill said: "We've got to make sure we build up the infrastructure in a sustainable way to cater for that growth. We've got to protect the cultural heart of towns and cities that people want to visit."

Mr Scowsill praised Abu Dhabi, along with Dubai and Doha, for its long-term planning to create a destination that people want to visit and the integrated manner in which it has built airports, roads and hotels and come up with new attractions and events – such as the Guggenheim and Louvre museums and the F1 Grand Prix – to keep visitors returning.

The keynote speaker at this year's summit is the former US president Bill Clinton, who will speak on leadership.

The actress and activist Daryl Hannah and environmentalists Laura Turner Seydel and David de Rothschild will discuss the challenges of social welfare and environmental protection as the tourism industry grows. There will also be a session on tourism and technology with representatives from Facebook and online operators such Booking.com.

The summit is not a talking shop, however. Two of the top priorities for the WTTC are to cut cumbersome visa procedures for travellers and reduce industry taxes.

"It's going to be a great day and half of content and debate," Mr Scowsill said. "And there will be decisions coming out about what to do next to get governments' attention on issues like visas and tax."

lgutcher@thenational.ae