How can Travel & Tourism help to heal the new political (dis)order?

Egyptian flags flying during the Arab Spring Movement. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Governments are only allowed to govern because society grants them the right to do so.

This is the basic tenet of social contract theory, developed by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1762, and what it means is that people can reject political order and reimagine it.

The world witnessed just that in 2010, when disillusioned masses in the Middle East mobilised and took to the streets to demand change. As a result, leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen were ousted and their governments overthrown. Fast-forward to 2016, anti-establishment votes resulted in the Brexit result and the election of President Trump in the US.

With citizens across the globe increasingly questioning established norms and systems, disruption is to be expected. But where does this leave Travel & Tourism?

As a sector responsible for the movement of people across international borders, and that prides itself on connecting cultures, Travel & Tourism is somewhat vulnerable to disruptions caused by social unrest — specifically the rise in isolationism and policies that erect barriers to travel.

During the 2018 edition of the World Travel Market (WTM), the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) hosted a leaders’ panel session to better understand the implications of nativist policies and share best practice strategies to make sure that tourism leaves no one behind.

In the session, Ninan Chacko, CEO of the Travel Leaders Group framed how Travel & Tourism connects people and celebrates diversity. He stated that “Travel & Tourism has rolled out the strongest welcome mat all over the world,” adding that “travel leads to better understanding. It’s redemptive.”

When popular sentiment seems to reject globalism, then, the travel sector embraces it, as seen with the Mayor of London’s recent campaign ‘London Is Open’, which aims to present the city as both open to business and to incoming visitors.

Travel is not only an antidote to disruptions by bridging cultures and connecting people, but also by creating jobs. While each markedly different, the Arab Spring, Brexit and the 2016 US Election share a commonality in their concern for people’s jobs and economic livelihoods.

Egypt’s Minister for Tourism, H.E. Dr. Rania Al-Mashat highlighted the importance of Travel & Tourism as a job creator, explaining that in Egypt the travel sector is a “job multiplier”. That is, for every job directly created in tourism a further three are supported.

Indeed, Travel & Tourism accounts for 1 in 10 jobs on the planet, a figure which is expected to grow to 1 in 9 over the next decade.

Beyond the creation of jobs, Travel & Tourism has the ability to improve the livelihood of local communities. Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority articulated that residents need to feel the wider value of tourism in order to live alongside it — a mantra fit for every destination. This means building up infrastructure, such as transportation systems, so that residents see an improvement in their day-to-day lives vis-a-vis tourism development.

It also means inclusive and responsible tourism planning, as in Greece, where Minister for Tourism H.E. Elena Kountoura has developed a strategy to ‘spread’ tourists and encourage off-peak travel across a plethora of Greek destinations. This approach eases congestion and spreads tourism dollars, with clear benefits for both residents and visitors.

Inclusivity is also central to Egypt’s Minister for Tourism, H.E. Dr. Rania Al-Mashat’s strategy who hopes to translate the sector’s growth into enrichment by “creating at least one opportunity for one person in every household in the country” during her tenure.”

While the world continues to grapple with the repercussions of social uprisings, stakeholders from all walks of life must come together to rebuild trust and create a new social contract. I hope that Travel & Tourism will continue to be a part of that solution.

This post was written by Chloe Wynne, Communications Executive, World Travel & Tourism Council.

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