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Rochelle Turner, Research Director, World Travel & Tourism Council

Rochelle Turner is the Director of Research for the World Travel & Tourism Council, the only global body that brings together all of the major players in the Travel & Tourism sector. From airlines and hotels, to tour companies and technology, WTTC brings everything together. Rochelle is responsible for the design and execution of the research that lays the foundation for the World Travel & Tourism Council. She has spent her whole career in consumer and market research within the tourism sector, and Rochelle holds a MSc in Tourism Management from the University of Surrey as well as a LLDip from the College of Law, UK. Continue on to learn about the World Travel & Tourism Council, and what they are doing in the travel industry.

Travel Research Online (TRO): The World Travel & Tourism Council was formed in 1991 to promote awareness of Travel & Tourism’s economic contributions as well as to expand markets in harmony with the environment and reduce barriers to growth. How do you feel since its conception the WTTC has raised that awareness?

Rochelle Turner (RT): WTTC’s flagship Economic Impact Research has led the way in highlighting the sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product, employment, investment, and exports at the global level and for 184 countries and 24 country groups. Since 2013 we have also benchmarked Travel & Tourism’s performance against other sectors such as Finance, Automotive, and Chemicals manufacturing, which helps put the Travel & Tourism’s contribution in perspective, allowing the sector to push harder for a space on the political agenda.

Furthermore, through a variety of initiatives started by WTTC we have been able to enhance the awareness on the importance of Travel & Tourism as a socioeconomic contributor to a country’s welfare.

WTTC has been able to influence government policy through advocacy work and a close partnership with the UN World Tourism Organisation. WTTC and UNWTO have been successful in reaching governments through the Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign. Through this joint initiative Heads of State and Government are presented with an Open Letter stating the economic and social importance of Travel & Tourism in their country and meet with UNWTO and WTTC to discuss priority issues. To date the President of WTTC and the Secretary General of UNWTO have met with over 84 Presidents and Prime Ministers.

WTTC has also set up the Global Travel Association Coalition (GTAC), a cross-industry grouping of sectoral organisations including Airports Council International (ACI), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), WTTC, and World Economic Forum (WEF). This collaboration between the world’s leading T&T industry associations means that all parts of the sector can talk with one voice on the issues common to all, which in turn means that our message is more clearly understood.

WTTC has also been voicing the concerns and challenges of the private sector at Ministerial Roundtables and large international fora, such as the UNWTO Executive Councils and biennial General Assembly; the meeting of the tourism ministers of the G20 countries; APEC Tourism Working Group and ministerial meetings; ASEAN Tourism Forum; OECD Tourism Committee; United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 10 YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme; and the Caribbean Tourism Organization. We are also invited to participate in meetings of the World Bank, European Tourism Commission, BORDERPOL, UN Global Compact, and COMCEC.

TRO: One of WTTC’s focuses currently is convincing governments of the economic advantages generated by visa policies, as many travelers still find it difficult to enter certain countries as international travelers. What are some of the things that the WTTC are doing to push for those changes? Has the WTTC been successful thus far?

RT: WTTC believes that governments should continue to focus on tourism development that serves the good of their people, and make policy decisions that balance the safety of their citizens with the continued facilitation of travel for business and leisure purposes. We need governments to move faster towards electronic visa processing as not only are Trusted Traveller, Visa Waivers and Electronic Visas more customer friendly, they are much more secure.

In 2012, WTTC and UNWTO carried out research to better understand the economic benefit of visa facilitation. The results were significant – over a three-year period some 5 million jobs could be created in G20 countries if they embraced visa facilitation. This research was taken on board by the G20 Leaders and since then we have seen significant improvements in how countries approach their visa policies. We also conducted research on this topic in the APEC and ASEAN regions which has had a similar impact.

Some examples of where we have influenced visa policy:

USA

-President Obama’s Executive Order establishing visa and foreign visitor processing goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness

-Improvements in visa staffing/processing in Brazil and China

-Expansion of visa waiver programme

India

-E-visas scheme extended to nationals of 150 countries

Indonesia

-Waived visa requirements for 79 countries

Japan

-Waived visas for Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai tourists

-Eased visa policies for travellers from India, the Philippines, and Vietnam

WTTC also sits on various advisory boards and steering committees to be the voice of the private sector in discussions that influence Travel & Tourism policies.

TRO: The World Travel & Tourism Council promotes sustainable tourism through the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Can you tell us a little more about the awards, and how they help to find the balance?

RT: WTTC’s annual Tourism for Tomorrow Awards celebrates best practices in business leadership on the sustainable growth of Travel & Tourism. Our award scheme illustrates the balance between profit and sustainability, showcasing that businesses can be successful and yet at the same time still help to preserve the environment.

There are five award categories Community, People, Innovation, Destination, and Environment. Each of these awards encompass the ever-growing needs of people, financial revenue and the planet. We have the obligation to ensure that we balance the growth of the sector with its environmental impact.

The finalists and winners of the awards each year provide inspirational examples of how this balance can be met, and tell the story of how Travel & Tourism, when developed responsibly can bring significant benefits to communities around the world. One such example is Misool in Indonesia, an eco-resort which created a No Take Zone around their island to preserve this unique natural environment from an increase in fishing and other threats.

TRO: Can you tell us about some of the environmental initiatives that the World Travel & Tourism Council is partaking in

RT: WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow strategy looks at balancing the growth of the Travel & Tourism sector with the preservation of local communities, environment and cultural heritage. As part of the strategy we organise the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, a prestigious programme that celebrates business leadership in the future of tourism.

We also run various social media campaigns which are predominantly focused on reaching the consumer. At our Global Summit in Bangkok in April earlier this year we launched “Is it Too Much to Ask?”. A campaign that asks everyone to pledge individual actions that collectively can make a difference to the world.

Alongside our activities which directly engage travellers and the public in general, WTTC speaks to government bodies and the private sector about policies and solutions on how to build a tourist product that can actually help sustain or rebuild the environment and cultural heritage. The foundation for these recommendations stem for research we do on a variety of topics within sustainable travel.

Last year, we launched our second Climate Change research paper, “Connecting Global Climate Action”, which reports on the WTTC Member companies’ commitments and operations to reduce the impact their businesses have on climate change.

WTTC has also developed a guideline which helps companies to report on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), a method of measurement by which companies demonstrate a commitment to transparency, and through the reporting processes, management approaches to proactively address externalities are articulated and advanced. We will be launching an update on our report this autumn.

TRO: The World Travel & Tourism Council recently launched a pledge campaign titled Is It Too Much to Ask. How did the idea for this campaign come about? Can you give us some details about it?

RT: We initially started this process by conducting research among our WTTC Membership to analyse and decide what our critical issues of focus need to be (You can read more briefly about it on our blog here: https://www.wttc.org/research/other-research/identifying-the-critical-material-issues-for-travel-tourism/. The issues focused on climate change, protecting people & places, and, without question, the continuously escalating environment of disruption in seemingly all aspects of human life and commerce. Yet, even more simply, all these issues centre on one more thing: protecting the one thing we all share – this planet. Without it, without it’s finite resources, we would not have anything else.

Throughout history, human evolution and growth has relied on one thing: humans’ ability to cooperate. Without our shared and collective belief in the same ideals, the same facts, the same conclusions, we would not be able to move forward.
As such, we thought it was not too much to ask everyone to take up these very simple actions, but when done collectively, the impact can be more measurable and transform the sector and help alleviate the pressures on the planet. Put simply, it’s about adopting a different mindset, one that feels responsible for this planet.

TRO: WTTC and the Travel & Tourism sector have spent multiple years trying to achieve sustainable and responsible practices more mainstream. How has the Is It Too Much to Askcampaign made a difference in that area? How many pledges from consumers and companies alike have you received?

RT: Organically we’ve received hundreds of sign-ups to the campaign site and have received a dozen pledge suggestions. We are now in the process of adding two suggested pledges to the site after completing the necessary background research and adding additional resources for people to study, just as we did with the initial 10 pledges.

TRO: Are they plans for more campaigns similar to the Is It Too Much to Ask campaign in the future for the World Travel & Tourism Council? If so, can you tell us about any of them?

RT: I am afraid we cannot announce any further projects at the moment.

TRO: I imagine the feedback the WTTC receives is positive, as what you are trying to achieve is a wonderful thing. Have you struggled with any opposition along this journey?

RT: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. That said, people do recognize the difficulty in getting everyone to stick to their pledges and continue to take these actions into their daily lives. We also recognize these challenges and are trying to provide people with as much information as possible to show them the many ways they can engage as well as educate them on the different ways of responsible travel. Because even though some travelers are well-intentioned, they may not be aware that certain activities are not sustainable or irresponsible to either nature or local cultures.

TRO: What can we expect to see from the WTTC in this upcoming year?

RT: We will be launching various pieces of research focused on pressing issues within Travel & Tourism. One of our upcoming research reports will look at the economic impact and job creation of our sector in 65 cities, showcasing the increased importance of cities as destinations. Furthermore, we will launch a research report that addresses visitor management in destinations, following up from the various discussions around overcrowding or ‘over tourism’ as it has been called.

WTTC will further continue to drive its advocacy and with a newly appointed President & CEO will meet and engage with governments around the world to convey the challenges and opportunities the private sector sees for Travel & Tourism.

As we get closer to the end of the year we will also increase our preparation for the 2018 Global Summit, which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina 18 -19 April.

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