Gloria Guevara & Chris Nassetta: Our Goals for the Golden Age of Travel

The following is a joint op-ed in partnership with Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton and Chairman of WTTC.

Nearly 100 years ago, a young entrepreneur named Conrad Hilton purchased, almost on impulse, the Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas. Soon the inventor of the modern hotel industry found himself setting an even grander goal: to spread “world peace through international travel.” Today, travel is such a core part of who we are, what we do for a living, how we stay connected, how we disconnect, that it can be taken for granted. It shouldn’t be.

In fact, the travel industry is the largest contributor to global economic growth, providing 10 percent of global GDP and growing, at a time when longer-term global growth prospects are subdued. We are also the largest employers, generating one out of every five new jobs, when the future of work is uncertain. However, there are real challenges that have the potential to undermine the positive impact that travel and tourism has on the world that must be addressed.

As the leaders of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), we intend to do just that. WTTC is the global association of travel and tourism leaders that are diverse, and often fierce, competitors on any given day, but in the arc of history, we are a powerful alliance in a pivotal era. Not only do we drive the global economy, but we help bring 1.3 billion people together each year from all over the world to embrace new cultures and ideas at a time when those human connections have never been more important than they are today. From record levels of political discord and distrust in institutions, to talk of trade wars and nuclear threats, to long-needed debates motivated by the #MeToo movement, we have the ability as an industry to have a massively positive impact simply by introducing people to new situations and new experiences that bring the world closer together.

In this “Golden Age of Travel” as we like to call it, we cannot afford to reverse this momentum. So WTTC is addressing three global challenges to our industry head-on. First, as borders tighten in response to rising global security threats, we are working towards simple, safe and effective technology solutions to eventually permit paperless border crossings, verified by biometrics like facial recognition, which both improve security and the travel experience, and allows for more travelers to pass through. Second, in today’s uncertain and changing world, we are banding together to take preventative action against crises where we can and to have crisis preparedness systems in place to help both travelers and destinations. And finally, as certain destinations in our world face record numbers of travelers, we are looking to promote sustainable growth. We are doing this by improving long-term planning between the public and private sectors as well as local communities; by investing in sustainable solutions and pledging good stewardship of the natural resources we rely upon to run our businesses; and, by driving incredible employment opportunities in communities all over the world.

If we can achieve these goals — facilitating secure travel, responding swiftly to crises and natural disasters, and continuing to grow responsibly and sustainably — we will be able to sustain the Golden Age of Travel in this critically important era. We will move even closer to Conrad Hilton’s vision of fostering world peace through international travel. And we will empower every traveler to have the potential to have a lasting positive impact.

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