Boris bats for UK tourism

LONDON, 6 November 2019;  The UK’s top travel show WTM opened Monday celebrating its 40th annual edition with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson providing the opening welcome message.

Johnson, who launched the 12 December election campaign last week spoke of the UK’s success story in the 10 years since he first opened the event when he was Mayor of London.

Following on from Johnson’s message, the government’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Nicky Morgan noted tourism contributed UKP68 billion to the UK economy and represented  1.6 million jobs. Last year the UK attracted 38 million visitors who spent UKP22.7 billion.

Acknowledging the Brexit challenge for the tourism industry she told the gathering of business executives at the Monday lunch: “We are going to be leaving the European Union, but we do not want to put up borders that keep people in or out. We want to make it as frictionless as possible to visit.”

On the first day of WTM Atout France and easyJet signed a major three-year partnership at WTM London that will attempt to boost British and German visitors to France through cheap fares and land content offers.

The new agreement will see the airline and the tourism agency promoting destinations across easyJet’s network and will have an annual budget of UKP1 million.

WTM London’s headline partner Sri-Lanka also presented a statement at the opening event outlining its objective to ‘build back better’ six months after the terror attacks that decimated its tourism industry.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner Manisha Gunasekera commented: “Exactly one year ago at WTM we launched So Sri Lanka, our brand identity, which has now become so much identified with Sri Lanka.”

She added: “The message emanating from Sri Lanka is we’re resilient, united, and we have made a steady recovery.”

WTM’s Responsible Tourism Programme began on Monday with a session asking Is “Tourism a Strategy for Development?” 

Cillian Murphy Consulting’s director, Cillian Murphy, said tourism needs to shift from a market-led model to a community-led one.

“Stop seeing each other as competition, and start seeing how we can work together,” he said, explaining that as a restaurant owner himself, this would mean not seeing the restaurant across the road as the competitor, and instead as a partner for turning the town into a foodie destination.

Limpopo director of tourism planning & development, Moses Ngobeni, summed up the key themes of the session in two phrases. First, he observed that: “Tourism is like sport – it can change perceptions of a country.” And he made it clear that “Tourism should be government-led, private sector-driven, and community-based.”

This year, WTM is addressing some of the major sustainability challenges and asking who can do what about them.

In a statement, WTM said: “We need businesses and destination governments to step and take responsibility for making the choices that will make our sector sustainable.

“We have panels with industry experts considering what we can do to address decarbonisation of the sector, aviation, the challenge of building sustainable hotels, ensure water security, develop resilient destinations, conserve wildlife & biodiversity, reduce plastic waste and manage sites so that they are not damaged by over-tourism.

“There are two widely recognised existential threats to our species, to us: climate change and biodiversity loss.”