As WTTC summit opens, report indicates Europe will open to vaccinated visitors: Travel Weekly

CANCUN — The World Travel and Tourism Council on Sunday kicked off its first in-person global meeting since 2019 with good news: a New York Times report that said Europe would open its borders to vaccinated travelers this summer.

The report was posted online as government and travel industry leaders from more than 20 countries gathered for the WTTC’s annual summit, whose theme this year is “Uniting the World for Recovery.”

At the same time that tourism ministers here were calling for common protocols to open borders, the Times reported that the president of the European Commission said the bloc’s 27 members would “accept, unconditionally” all travelers this summer with approved vaccines, which include the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots being administered in the United States.

According to the Times, EC president Ursula von der Leyen did not give a date or details about how members would reopen for vaccinated travelers.

Spain’s secretary of state for tourism, Fernando Valdes Verelst, told Travel Weekly here on Sunday that the breakthrough came during a meeting of the EU Council Feb. 25 and 26. A stumbling block was that EU countries that aren’t dependent on tourism weren’t willing to make visitation a priority, but countries including Spain, Portugal and Greece convinced them that 2021 could not be a repeat of 2020 with uncoordinated regulation, and that successful vaccine rollouts in the U.S., UK and Israel opened the door for a safe reopening.

Should there be a spike in one EU country, he said, the EU rules wouldn’t change, though source market countries may want to impose quarantines or testing upon return.

Shortly before the report was published, WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara hailed the summit as an “unprecedent and relevant event” to help the pandemic-ravaged travel sector recover and said the summit’s goal was to spend the next two days defining the recovery and “how can we speed it up.”

At a Sunday afternoon panel, ministers of tourism from Colombia, Greece, Honduras, Jamaica, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Spain called for uniform standards and public-private cooperation and leadership to reopen global tourism.

“Let’s work together to solve the issues,” said Harry Theocharis, the tourism minister for Greece, which plans to open to vaccinated travelers and those with negative Covid-19 tests on May 14. 

“Let’s create those initiatives, let’s join these initiatives to make safe travel and tourism possible,” Theocharis said.

While the WTTC summit was scaled back, it nonetheless represented a significant undertaking. All of the attendees were tested for Covid-19 on arrival, and social distancing and other health and safety protocols were in place across the Moon Palace resort and conference center.

Another 30,000 were expected to connect to the event virtually on Monday and Tuesday. 

Contributing editor Meagan Drillinger contributed to this report.

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WTTC 2021: Tourism leaders gather for first post-Covid event | News

Hundreds of the foremost business leaders, government ministers and key decision-makers in the global tourism sector will meet face-to-face this weekend for the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Global Summit 2021.

Under the theme ‘Uniting the World for Recovery,’ the event is positioning itself as the first-time global tourism event where leaders will have gathered together since the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the sector from March last year.

WTTC has ensured strict world-class health and hygiene protocols are in place to protect participants, with testing available for delegates for the duration of the Summit.

Key private and public sector leaders will meet at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico, with thousands expected to join virtually.

They will discuss their experiences and share best practice on topics from kickstarting recovery in the tourism sector to how to enhance sustainability and inclusivity.

The summit will act as the platform for recovery and will be the place where a roadmap will be defined to take the sector towards restarting international travel and existing in the new normal.

WTTC will also launch a major ‘Women’s Initiative’ to work towards removing existing barriers for women within the sector and to implement initiatives for greater success for women.

Delegates will also discuss digital and touchless technologies that will become a major force post Covid-19 and be critical to ensuring a safe and seamless traveller journey.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC chief executive, said: “The WTTC Global Summit is the most important event in the calendar as we bring together, for the first time since the pandemic outbreak, the cream of the tourism sector.

“The most influential leaders from both the private and public sectors will meet face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year as we begin a new chapter in the sector’s post-pandemic recovery.

“More than ever, as governments begin to re-open their economies, it is vital we share knowledge and best practice among travel leaders and political leaders to navigate our way to a responsible recovery.”

Keynote speakers include the president of Colombia from 2010-2018, Juan Manuel Santos; tennis legend and advocate for women’s issues and the environment, Martina Navratilova; tourism minister of Greece, Harry Theocharis; tourism minister of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Al Khateeb; Chris Nassetta, chief executive of Hilton and WTTC; and Arnold Donald, chief executive of Carnival Corporation.

Also among those attending are leaders from Marriott International; IHG Hotels & Resorts; Iberostar; Expedia; Google; American Express; Airbnb; Japan Airlines and TUI.

In addition, leaders from the Travel Corporation; Abercrombie & Kent; Royal Caribbean Cruises; Silversea Cruises are speaking in high-profile debates as well as over 20 government delegations led by tourism ministers, such as Mexico; Colombia; Spain; Greece; Portugal; Saudi Arabia; Panama; the United Kingdom; France; the Philippines and the United States.

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WTTC unveils new accessibility guidelines for global travel | News

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched new guidelines for inclusion and accessibility in the sector.

The work focuses on the experience of travellers with disabilities and is designed to help make the tourism industry a more inclusive space.

The guidelines were compiled on the basis of insights and frameworks developed by private sector leaders in tourism, travel and disability experts and research from intergovernmental organisations.

The guidelines are divided into four pillars:

  • Developing an inclusive and accessible system
  • Creating safe spaces
  • Designing an engaging relevant system
  • Exemplifying inclusion and accessibility

Highlights from these important guidelines include providing training to staff on disability awareness and how to support travellers with disabilities, as well as collaborating with other businesses in areas where there are gaps in accessibility knowledge, experience and services.

The report also emphasises the importance of fostering a respectful environment at all locations and for all activities, specifically reminding staff that their attitude towards people with disabilities plays an integral role in making that customer feel welcome and included.

There is also an importance given to developing accessibility features that are clear, overt, and which such travellers do not require special assistance from staff to use.

Furthermore, the guidelines make clear that businesses should regularly and proactively engage travellers with disabilities in the creation of accessible products and services so that these meet their needs appropriately.

They should also include accessibility features from the booking process, enabling travellers with disabilities to engage with the business before booking their travel service or product.

Staff should also be empowered to address customer concerns as they occur or to engage other staff members if and where necessary, and inclusive marketing should be developed to dignify representations of all people and authentically represent them.

Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the WTTC, said: “WTTC is proud to release these important high-level guidelines, which will help tourism businesses of all kinds, foster more accessible and inclusive environments.

“The sector is one of the most diverse in the world.

“As the report shows and according to the World Health Organisation, almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life, and about 15 per cent of the global population live with some form of disability.

“It is therefore imperative that we are inclusive.”

Image: Jürgen Fälchle / Alamy Stock Photo

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WTTC urges for faster reopening of UK tourism | News

While the UK travel sector has been widely supportive of plans to life Covid-19 restrictions, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned the process may take too long.

Prime minister, Boris Johnson, unveiled the plans on Monday, with a global travel taskforce to report on the reopening of travel on April 12th.

The government would then decide on removing restrictions on international travel.

However, this would not happen until May 17th at the earliest.

While some businesses have already reported a surge in bookings, WTTC chief executive Gloria Guevara said delays could prove costly.

She explained: “While we welcome the incredible progress the UK government has made on the vaccine rollout programme, delaying the return of international travel until at least mid-May, could mean the tourism sector simply will not survive and struggling small- and medium-sized enterprises will just disappear.

“The sector was banking its hopes on a quicker return to international travel, so there will be widespread dismay at this news.

“Its return is crucial if the UK economy is to recover from the ravages of the pandemic, given the sector generates £200 billion to the GDP of the United Kingdom and supports almost four million jobs.”

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WTTC calls for focus on individual travellers to boost safety | News

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is calling for governments to abandon the concept of ‘high-risk countries’ and instead focus on how individual ‘high-risk travellers’ are treated at borders.

The body is urging governments around the world to shift their focus from whole countries, towards individual travellers.

Instead, WTTC says governments around the world should redefine their whole approach to risk assessment, to revive international business and leisure travel.

Combined with a common international consensus on the metrics used to assess risk and a laser-like focus on a cost-effective, comprehensive, and rapid departure and arrival testing scheme for all travellers, could pave the way forward for the meaningful return of travel.

It would also ensure only those affected are forced to isolate, while travellers who test negative can continue to enjoy safe travels through observing hygiene protocols and mask wearing.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC chief executive, said: “Risk based on entire countries is neither effective nor productive. Redefining risk towards individual travellers instead will be key for unlocking the door to the return of safe international travel.

“We need to learn from past experiences and crises such as 9/11.

“We cannot continue labelling entire countries as ‘high-risk’ which assumes everyone is infected.

“While the UK is currently seeing high levels of infections, clearly not all Britons are infected; the same goes for all Americans, Spaniards or the French.

“The reality is much more complex.

“Not only does it stigmatise an entire nation, but it also halts travel and mobility when many people who test negative on departure and arrival could safely travel without exporting the virus.

“We have to recognise this reality and redefine the risk to focus on ‘high-risk’ individuals.

“We firmly believe implementing a comprehensive testing regime and the use of technology is the only practical way to restore international travel securely.

“Furthermore, a comprehensive testing programme will be less expensive than the economic cost brought on by blanket quarantines and lockdowns.”

She added: “This refocus would avoid exporting the virus and enable the free movement of travellers, while still observing enhanced hygiene protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing.

“We must learn to live with the virus, as it will take time for the global population to be vaccinated.

“This is why WTTC has long advocated introducing a comprehensive and cost-effective test on departure and arrival for all international travellers, as a way of preventing those carrying the virus from spreading it.”

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