Disruption and Reinvention, key topics at WTTC Summit in Madrid

Ben Hunt

Group Communications Director, Amadeus IT Group

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The World Travel and Tourism Council brought its traveling summit roadshow back to Europe for the first time in 8 years on Wednesday with the 15th Summit opening in Madrid to discuss the theme of Disruption and Reinvention.

Luis Maroto

Michael Frenzel, Chairman of the WTTC, hailed the choice of Madrid as particularly apt, given that the growth of tourism in the city and in the rest of Spain was leading economic recovery following the financial crisis.

"Despite disruptive economic forces, the travel and tourism industry is on its way to recovery in Spain with record visitor arrivals, growth and jobs," he said. What better place to celebrate (the travel industry's) ongoing ability to adapt and overcome the disruptive focus?"

Most of the discussion around disruption focused on the economic upheaval of the last decade, the threat of terrorism and geopolitical uncertainty. While all speakers acknowledged the challenges, most were highly optimistic about the industry's ability to overcome them - but said this could only be optimized if government and companies worked together.

David Scowsill, WTTC President and CEO, said the industry thrived on disruption and had become adept to adapting to the changing needs of the traveller and the circumstances it confronted. He challenged governments to facilitate this process to encourage growth.

"Governments for the most part cannot see the total impact of the industry on growth and jobs," he said. "If they saw the industry as one whole it would enable them to make better cross-ministerial decisions to move the industry forward."

Luis Maroto, Amadeus CEO, also said it was vital that the industry work together to find common solutions to challenges and promote travel and tourism. He stressed the role technology would play in enabling the industry to meet the evolving demands of customers newly empowered by greater choice and social media.

"There are challenges, but there are opportunities too, and technology will be key to competing. Technology companies have to work with travel providers to meet the new demands of the traveler - if we work together we can sustain growth in the travel industry," he said.