The travel and tourism industry is undergoing a time of rapid evolution, with many opportunities and innovations that need to be taken advantage of. This was the main conclusion of the XV global summit of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the most important event in the world for the tourism sector. The event took place on the 15th and 16th of April in Madrid and hosted more than a thousand industry professionals including hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, providers, airlines, and expert speakers on the present and future of this sector.
NH Hotel Group was Platinum Sponsor of the event, hosted in Spain for the first time, and we took advantage of this important occasion to share and learn with industry experts.
The session began with a spectacular flamenco performance, followed by a warm welcome from David Scowsill and Michael Frenzel, the CEO and Chairman of WTTC respectively, along with the General Secretary of the World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai.
Richard Fenning, CEO of Control Risk, gave us great insight into existing risks in the Travel and Tourism Sector. He shared his latest studies which show the advantage that we have, given that “the world has never been as safe as it is now”.
Julie Meyer, CEO of Ariadne Capital (a bona fide entrepreneurship guru), spoke about the great opportunities and advantages currently available to startups.
Important figures participated, such as the former President of the European Commission José Manuel Durao Barroso, the President of Banco Santander Ana Botín, and the CEOr of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Tony Tyler.
Durao Barroso highlighted Europe as the most visited destination in the world, and as such should tap into its potential. Botín reminded us that tourism represents 12% of the Spanish economy, generating three million jobs.
The CEO of the WTTC, David Scowsill, also mentioned the importance of the industry on the global level. It makes up almost 10% of the world economy, and is estimated to grow 3.7% this year. In the last decade, the tourism sector has become, according to Taleb Rifai, “a cornerstone of social transformation in the world”.
The growing importance of technology in the tourism sector was one of the most highlighted themes at this Summit which played host to CEOs of companies such as Amadeus, Ryanair and Booking.com. The roundtable discussion dedicated to the potential growth of the Travel and Tourism Sector in Europe became, thanks to Michael O’Leary, an entertaining debate about the taxes and politics faced by airlines.
During the second day, taking advantage of the fact that Madrid was the Summit host, there was a discussion about Madrid’s role as a connection between Spain, Latin America and the rest of the world. David Muñoz, chef of the restaurant DiverXo with three Michelin stars which is located in the NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding, highlighted that Madrid is “the best city in Europe to enjoy gastronomy, innovation and new trends”.
Luis Gallego, CEO of Iberia, said that Madrid is “the entry point for Latin America in Europe” and that it has “one of the best airports,” but that it is necessary to consolidate Barajas as a hub that connects Spain and the rest of the world.
NH Hotel Group participated in one of the roundtable discussions that took place to talk about the current situation of hotel chains and the current importance of technology in the sector.
In the words of our CEO, Federico J. González Tejera, hotels are both “services and experiences”. When someone stays at a hotel they want the best products and services. The destination and location can then complete a great experience.
Federico J. González Tejera also said that “in the hotel industry, there are still many opportunities to innovate and that those innovations create a strong link with our clients”.
“For NH, technology is fundamental and we are very focused in this area, but the most important thing continues to be knowing what the guests want and what they will want or need. We use technology to respond to this, but without a deep knowledge of the guest’s needs the technology is useless”, said NH’s CEO who participated in the innovation debate along with members of Airbnb, Expedia, Google Travel and Hertz Corporation.
One of WTTC’s best panels was “Social Media- Letting the Outside In”, in which Gary Vaynerchuck, Co-Founder of VaynerMedia, debated with Barney Harford, CEO of Orbitz Worldwide, John O’Sullivan, of Tourism Australia, and Adam Weissenberg of Deloitte, about how businesses should market to their clients, using new Social Media tools to listen to and target their audiences well.
In the end, the two days of intense debate and reflection energized the sector, which is looking towards the future with the intention to continue renovating itself every day to keep setting new goals for offering the best experiences and services to clients. The next Summit? It will take place next year in Dallas, Texas.