Thirty years ago then chairman of American Express James Robinson III realized that not enough people recognized the travel industry’s importance to national economies and job creation.
Not having a cohesive voice made it harder to get the word out on the many positive impacts the industry delivers.
Bringing together leaders from airlines, hotel groups, car rental companies, cruise lines, travel agencies and tour operators, the World Travel & Tourism Council was born.
Recently, the London-based organization opened an office in New York and appointed veteran travel executive Alfonso Sumano as director.
During Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, we talked about what the WTTC does, why it is expanding here now, and how its work is impacting you and your company.
Alfonso Sumano, director North America for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC): “The industry represents 10% of the global workforce and $8.8 trillion, over 10% of the world’s GDP.”
Tell us a bit about your background?
I was fortunate to be one of the founding team of the Mexico Tourism Board back in 2000, which was the entity in charge of international promotion of Mexico. We had over 20 offices around the world, and as of last year, Mexico was the sixth most visited country in the world. Tourism brings people together who would never have otherwise met each other. It promotes understanding and friendship, and it’s my passion.
Can you give us an overview of the WTTC?
The WTTC is the private entity to represent the tourism industry at the global level. There are over 200 members, and overall the industry represents 10% of the global workforce and $8.8 trillion, over 10% of the world’s GDP.
We are the counterpart to the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations, which represents the public sector. The chairman of the WTTC is Chris Nassetta, who is the CEO of Hilton Hotels.
What are the goals of the WTTC?
Generally speaking, our goal has been to facilitate travel, but now under the leadership of our CEO Gloria Guevara Manzo (a former technology and travel industry CEO and Minister of Tourism for Mexico), we have three key priorities.
First is a continuation of facilitation with technology, things like biometrics, facial recognition, ways that will make it easier, seamless and secure to travel.
Another key is sustainable growth, which includes climate and environment, encouraging sustainability reporting, destination stewardship, tackling illegal trade in wildlife, and raising awareness of human trafficking. Our membership recognizes if we don’t take care of the environment and people, later we will not have anything to promote.
Equally important, we support members and the industry in crisis management recovery. It can be a natural disaster or anything that catastrophically impacts a destination. As we know so many people depend on tourism to make a living, so recovery is important. We are here in Las Vegas where there was, of course, the recent tragedy, but the recovery was fast because they had a communication plan in place, they reacted properly, and executed it very well.
Why did the WTTC open an office here in the U.S. now?
I am based in New York but my position covers all of North America. It is very important to expand awareness of the WTTC and what we represent. Our CEO wanted to have a team closer to our members here, and we also want to increase membership, so being here will help with that.
Can you give me some examples of who your current members are?
As I mentioned Hilton, so here in the U.S., Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels, Carnival Corporation, AIG Travel, American Express, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Expedia Group, Trip Advisor, Travel Leaders Group, Uber, Airbnb, Google, Visit California, Apple Leisure Group, United Airlines, Hertz, Virtuoso, whose conference we are here attending, and many more, and around the world, of course. Representation is from the CEO of the company. The full list is on our website.
Is the WTTC limited to travel companies?
We have partners who provide services to the travel and tourism industry, so companies like Deloitte, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, VISA, Mastercard, and The Coca Cola Company.
Anything else you want to mention?
Facilitation of travel is the soul of the travel industry, helping people meet other people, visiting other countries, learning about different cultures, and sharing new experiences. Our goal is to make it easy and enjoyable.