Gloria Guevara WTTC

Big Thinkers in Tourism with Gloria Guevara Manzo – someone with a tight grasp of her brief and a 4 point ask

Gloria Guevara Manzo President of the World Travel and Tourism Council and former Mexican Tourism Minister was the Tourism Society’ guest on 24 February in out “Big Thinkers in Tourism” programme.

The WTTC was created 30 years ago to conduct global research into the industry, share best practice and act as a think tank and lobbying group. 30% of the membership is European, 30% US, 30% Asia and 10% ROW and whereas previously the membership tended towards the big global groups, there are now more SMEs.

It was a great session packed with opinions and recommendations from someone who has a very tight grasp of her brief.

Here are some of the key points that emerged.

Don’t forget the economic and social impacts of tourism.

Gloria began with a volley of statistics to demonstrate why if many governments including the UK have hitherto taken tourism for granted in the post COVID-19 world that will have to change. 330million or 1 in 10 jobs worldwide, up to 40% of GDP for some countries (UK9%). However, throughout her talk Gloria was at pains to point out that we should not just stress the economic impacts of tourism but increasingly the social impact – reducing poverty, improving education, opportunities for female employment and more emotional things such as providing happiness and improving mental health  – something she was keen to see happen in places like Saudi Arabia who have a target of 1 million jobs in tourism by 2030 and who are working with WTTC to improve their tourism offer.

UK? – could do better

Many of the audience’s questions were about how she viewed the UK and its commitment and whilst Gloria was the epitome of diplomacy, it was clear she felt in many ways the UK could and should do better. The UK has a strong private sector which could be why the government have historically been happy to let it look after itself. Starting with the positive, she praised the UK’s vaccination rollout and mentioned that she enjoys a cordial relationship with the current Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston. After 9/11 the UK was a leader in international security cooperation and coordination, but she felt with COVID-19 the UK had not picked up quickly enough on what was happening elsewhere and was therefore slow, inconsistent and lacked clarity in many areas.  Post-Brexit she felt the UK abandoning duty free would push high net worth travellers to Paris – most spend it at the point of arrival and departure – and that other punitive air duties would hamper the UK. She also felt that there was still a very long way to go on the levelling up agenda outside the M25 despite the availability of world class product – no one would dream of visiting Italy and just go to Rome!

Sustainable tourism – needs a 360 degree approach.

COVID-19 has accelerated the sustainability agenda e.g., better tech, shorter supply chains but there have also been some negative outcomes – poaching in game parks, illegal fishing, dearth of opportunities for girls and the destruction of habitats due to desperation. Who knew that 30% of the revenue for the Amsterdam public transport system was generated from tourists? We do now. So, a plea to see tourism more as part of a sustainable solution rather than always a problem and a plea for more carrots to encourage good behaviours and less sticks e.g., taxes.

G7 – a four point ask.

With the UK’s presidency of the G7, Gloria felt that there was a role for the UK and an opportunity for a global four point “ask”:

  1. Better international coordination and more “bridge building than bridge burning!” A framework for international mobility with clear rules
  2. A focus on the individual and their risk rather that the cold-shouldering of entire countries and the deployment of relevant technologies to test individuals.
  3. The reinforcement of protocols e.g., the wearing of masks.
  4. Support for the sector … because as some governments have now discovered it is actually pretty important!

So, Boris you now know what to do if you want the UK to recover quickly … watch out for Gloria if you continue to dither!

Katrina Michel

Chair Chester BID,  Trustee Storyhouse,  Board Member – the Tourism Society