Against a backdrop of economic malaise, terrorist attacks, war and
most recently SARS, travel academics, industry professionals and
organization chiefs are calling on the industry and governments to
cooperate and adapt to face future challenges and prepare for more
“Not only is there uncertainty about the unknown crisis, but
there is certainty that there is going to be another one,” said
Richard Gordon, secretary of tourism for the Philippines and
chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
Gordon was among dozens of speakers at the International
Cooperation for Tourism Development under a New Paradigm, a
conference organized by the Boao Forum for Asia and the World
Tourism Organization and held in Hong Kong last week.
Gordon called for what he described as travel and tourism
“co-opetition,” an agreement among countries and between the public
and private sectors to cooperate, coordinate and collaborate.
Perhaps SARS, more than any of the other recent crises, exposed
cracks in the communications among the industry’s trade
associations, governments and international organizations.
In what some believe was a knee-jerk reaction, the World Health
Organization (WHO) began announcing advisory travel warnings before
it had consulted anyone in the industry.
At the time it issued the advisory in March, the WHO said it was
the first it had issued in decades.
It was only after discussions with IATA that the health
organization came out with a statement saying it was safe to travel
“When international organizations like the WHO is issuing a
travel ban, it seems that it has been doing that in its own world
without looking outside, and that is a major problem,” said
Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of the World Travel and Tourism
Speaking at the conferences opening ceremony, Francesco
Frangialli, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization,
outlined a series of measures designed to limit the impact of
He called for more pre-crisis planning, honest and transparent
communication, and more partnerships between public authorities and
the private sector. Travel industry chiefs have also called for a
more sophisticated approach to the business of response
Further disruptions are inevitable and business as usual means
having a crisis management plan in place, they said, noting that a
crisis 12,000 miles away can very quickly become a crisis in your
own backyard in today’s interconnected world.
“The general feeling is that there is a new paradigm, and that
new paradigm leads us into a new state where there is almost a
permanent concern that we will have a degree of uncertainty about
our operating framework,” explained Geoffrey Lipman, the special
advisor to the tourism organization’s secretary-general and a
former president of the World Travel and Tourism Council.
“There has to be some new long-term framework for operating in
which the industry itself is more cohesive,” he said.
At a ceremony in Beijing later this year, the World Tourism
Organization is expected to announce that its operations are to
fall under the auspices of the United Nations.
This status is widely believed to mark the starting point for
greater cooperation among the various government and non-government
organizations. And the improved cooperation is seen as the first
step in better managing the industry’s response to future and as
yet unknown crises.
Becoming a UN agency will force the kind of interactions that,
up until now, have been a little bit unclear as to how they should
happen, said Lipman.
“And it will help build linkages so that you have a much more
rapidly adjustable system,” Lipman said.