The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) last week opened membership to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) for the first time in its 30-year existence. News editor Johanna Jainchill spoke with WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara about being more inclusive, new WTTC data on industry crisis recovery and the group's 2020 Global Summit in San Juan.
Q: Tell me about the membership category you are opening for SMEs.
A: We have about 200 CEO members from global companies around the world and from all travel industries and companies in the travel ecosystem. The new category for SMEs is a different classification that we call Associate Members.
We have three goals in mind. One, it's an opportunity for us to share our research and best practices. We will build a community from around the world that can interact and learn from the work we've done for 30 years and continue doing. Two, they can join the invitation-only Summit. We want to be more inclusive. By inviting SMEs to join, they can learn from our leaders and global CEOs and the experts who participate. Three, the networking opportunities that WTTC offers when we connect the public and private sector and the different players.
Q: Will they have the same access as other members?
A: No, there will be small differences. The associates won't participate in board meetings and can come to the Summit or regional events depending on space. They will have the same access to our research and the best practices we document. It's not exactly the same, but these little guys will get a lot of benefits that will help them to grow their businesses.
Q: What's the main takeaway from the WTTC's report on crisis recovery?
A: We looked at 90 crises -- terror attacks, natural disasters, political instability and outbreaks -- and quantified their recovery. The most important message is that the mother of all crises is political instability. Destinations recover faster from a terror attack. One example is Barcelona. They recovered from the terror attack they had in eight weeks. Even today, they haven't fully recovered from the political instability with Catalonia independence. In the U.K., with Brexit, the uncertainty is the worst. If you look at the growth in travel and tourism GDP in the U.K., the year before Brexit it was 4.6%. Last year it was 1%, and this year I'm sure it will be that or less. Look around the world at what's going on in Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador. Those crises will have an impact on travel and tourism.
Q: What is the theme of this year's Global Summit?
A: How travel is "making a lasting difference" in terms of economic and social impact on thousands of communities around the world. We will talk about crisis and recovery, especially after what Puerto Rico went through. The event will benefit the entire region, because storms and hurricanes affect multiple places throughout the Caribbean, like the Bahamas. We will discuss what we need to do together to continue with sustainable growth and make sure the growth is good for everyone and we continue making a lasting difference.