A Review of Global Tourism in 2017
The past year has been one of enormous change to global tourism. It is widely expected that international tourism movements during 2017 will top the 1.3 billion mark and is expected to maintain its growth over the next five years. The world’s major tourism associations, the UN World Tourism Organization and the World Travel and Tourism Council experienced a changing of leadership during 2017. The UNWTO’s highly respected Secretary General Dr Taleb Rifai has stepped down and is being replaced by former Georgian Minister Minister for Economic Development, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili. The WTTC’s equally respected CEO, David Scowsill was replaced by former Mexican Tourism Minister Gloria Guevara Manzo.
More important than the changing of the guard at the helm of these two major global tourism organizations is the importance of maintaining the strong alliance between them so successfully forged and nurtured by Rifai and Scowsill. As the WTTC Global summit in April 2017 so effectively demonstrated, there is a significant need for an industry wide approach to global tourism sustainability, security and risk management and adapting to technological change.
There has been some great news for some destinations during this year. A mere two years after the devastating earthquake of 2015, Nepal is set to record an all time record of 1 million+ international tourism arrivals. I was recently in Vanuatu, a country which has successfully recovered tourism after the very destructive 2015 Cyclone, Pam. South Pacific island states are making excellent progress in the development of their tourism industry. Thailand has successfully weathered the gloomy and inaccurate predictions some observers made about a possible tourism slump after the death of its revered King in October 2016. In fact Thailand has emerged as a global role model for tourism resilience and has enjoyed spectacular tourism growth during 2017. The Palestinian Authority was identified as the world’s fastest growing tourism destination in 2017. However, the predictably embittered reaction of the PA to US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may negatively impact on the traditional Christmas tourism rush that Bethlehem has enjoyed over the past few years.
Donald Trump’s first year as US President has been full of sound and fury, some from his tweets and more in media response to his every action and utterance. Certainly, the impression I had from the 1,000 delegates at the WTTC Global Tourism summit was that Mr Trump was unlikely to win any popularity awards among tourism professionals. Trump’s action of isolating the USA from the Paris climate change accords was universally condemned. Unfortunately, such is the general contempt for Trump that on those occasions in which he does or says something sensible, it’s largely ignored.
The cruise sector is set for many years of unprecedented global growth as Asia has discovered the joys of cruising. The introduction of a range of fuel efficient aircraft from both the Boeing and the Airbus companies have contributed to strong growth in the airline sector during 2017. On a broader level, China’s continuing inbound and outbound tourism growth is one of the most influential trends in global tourism. The shift in global tourism’s centre of gravity is rapidly heading eastwards as East and South East Asia maintain incredible growth as a tourism generating region.
Terrorism and conflict remains an ongoing concern in global tourism. Attacks targeting tourists in Manchester, London and Barcelona have not stopped tourism growth to Western Europe but have slowed it down. Although the Islamic State Group’s former territories have been retaken by Syrian and Iraqi forces this year, it members and supporters remain a threat. Tension in the Korean Peninsular and the dangerous nuclear and ballistic missile firings and tests by North Korea coupled with Donald Trump’s tweeted counter threats are causing concern in NE Asia about schoolboy standard exchanges of insults between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump degenerating into something far worse.
The rumblings of Bali’s volcanic Mt Agung have caused serious disruption to Bali’s tourism in late 2017. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is making good progress on developing counter-terrorism strategies to assist the tourism industry in 21 APEC economies. In October 2017 the issue of hotel security was highlighted when a disgruntled former real estate agent opened fire with automatic weapons from his Las Vegas hotel room , killing 58 people and wounding 540 attending a concert adjacent to the hotel. The hotel sector has been surprisingly reluctant to address growing calls from security experts to enhance screening procedures in hotels with identifiable security risks.
Whilst we cannot ignore tourism’s problems and challenges during 2017, the industry is set to enter 2018 in great shape. I would like to thank the over 70,000 ETB Travelnews readers worldwide who read my Global Tourism articles during this year. Thanks to ETB’s publisher Jonathan Harris for giving me the opportunity to share global tourism news and views with you. You may not have agreed with all my observations but you always have the right of reply. May I wish all my friends and colleagues in the tourism industry all the best for the festive season and a happy and prosperous new year for 2018. If you know of people who would like to study tourism at university level in Sydney, I look forward to welcoming them in our classes at UTS.