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Governments and Investors Share Knowledge on Tourism Technology

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photo: UNWTO

The UNWTO/WTM Ministers’ Summit, held yesterday by World Travel Market and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), was well received by participants from government and the private sector for its more dynamic new format leading to more concrete takeaways around this year’s theme: Investment in Tourism Technology.

This year, the UNWTO/WTM Ministers’ Summit held at World Travel Market, one of the world’s biggest tourism trade show (6 November 2018), focused on investment in tourism technology with a novel format. For the first time the summit featured a panel of private sector leaders alongside a panel of ministers, sparking an open and useful exchange of ideas and opinions on how to channel private capital into innovative tourism technologies.

This meant that tourism ministers and high-level representatives from countries including Bahrain, Bulgaria, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Uganda, Uruguay and the UK were able to directly reflect on and respond to the opinions voiced by the leading tourism and technology investment funds involved in the panel, such as Alibaba Capital Partners, Atomico and Vynn Capital.

“Without the support of the key tourism stakeholders, notably governments, corporations and investors, development and implementation of innovative products is not possible. Today’s discussions shed light on the influential role of both sectors as well as the need for stronger public-private partnerships”, said UNWTO Deputy Secretary-General Jaime Cabal opening the event.

A common sentiment amongst the panel of private sector entrepreneurs was that disruption leads change in the tourism sector, but regulation can be preventative to obtaining the attractive investment conditions needed to support disruptive new business ventures. It was suggested that regulation should be fixed in order to give clear guidelines to investors who wish to put private capital into new technology.

Several technology investors highlighted the need to narrow the opportunity cost and clear up the governance barriers for innovation in tourism. “It needs to be easy for start-ups to grow and expand – if rules change too quickly, investors will hesitate to invest,” Katherine Grass of Thayer Ventures told ministers.

Lio Chen, Managing Director at the Travel & Hospitality Center of Innovation at venture capital firm Plug and Play, called for larger technology companies to engage with start-ups to boost ideas, human resources and investment. “I ask ministers to incentivize the top five corporations in their country to work with start-ups and foster innovation,” he said.

On the subject of regulation, Michael Ellis, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “It’s a question of balance, and it’s a challenge to get that right, especially in technology.” He also urged ministers to boost sustainability and help tackle the world’s climate-related problems, such as rising carbon emissions.

Education was also highlighted as an element making investments more attractive. “Education allows technology to root into societies and contribute to making tourism more inclusive for communities,” said Benjamin Liberoff, Vice-Minister of Tourism of Uruguay.

“We have brought the public and private sector together in a unique format, and hope it will deliver real change in the sector. As tourism grows, then technology will play a key role,” said Simon Press, Senior Exhibitions Director of WTM London.

Moderated by Richard Quest of CNN International, the summit contributed to UNWTO’s ongoing priority to place tourism at the centre of the global innovation agenda.

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Google partners with UNWTO on Digital Skills Development

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Fostering knowledge, education and growth in tourism, is at the centre of a partnership announced today between Google and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Google will support UNWTO members in addressing the new digital trends and transformation challenges faced by tourism and needed by the sector, to fully harness its development potential and contribution to sustainability.

Digital skills are crucial for competitiveness in tourism, a sector characterized by technological change and the generation of new business models.

“This agreement with Google coincides with UNWTO’s special focus on education, skills development and jobs, the connecting thread of all our actions this year”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “Google is an affiliate member of UNWTO and this partnership proves the importance of public-private collaboration to advance tourism as a vehicle for sustainable development”, he added.

Lutz Behrendt, Travel Industry Leader, from Google  said: “More than half of tourism revenue in the EU is now researched or booked online. By equipping tourism ministries with the skills, tools and programmes they need to market and protect themselves online, we hope it will increase opportunities for jobs and revenue across the industry. Following a similar tourism programme we ran in Greece, 68% of participating businesses confirmed they saw concrete business results following our training, such as more visitors to their website or physical business.”

A High-Level Dialogue on Digital Skills in Tourism set the backdrop for announcing the agreement. Organized by UNWTO with the support of Google during ITB Berlin, the world`s leading travel trade fair, the event underscored that digital skills development remain a major priority for destinations around Europe.

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Overtourism? New UNWTO Report Offers Case Studies to Tackle Challenges

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released today the report ‘Overtourism’? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth Beyond Perceptions: Case Studies’, choosing ITB Berlin as the fitting backdrop to address a pressing topic before the global tourism sector. The report provides examples of specific measures being implemented in cities across the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and Europe.

A total of 18 case studies assembled in the report are the follow-up to the general approach laid out in the previous publication ‘Overtourism’? – Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions’. Launched in September 2018, it examines how to manage tourism in urban destinations to the benefit of visitors and residents alike, offering a wide range of strategies and measures for a better understanding and management of challenges and opportunities.

“Urban tourism is multifaceted and requires a city-wide strategy with cooperation between all stakeholders and the inclusion of tourism in the urban agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “Sustainable and inclusive cities must mean creating cities for all: citizens, investors and visitors”, he addedd.

As acomplement to the conceptual approach, the report presented today looks into concrete case studies from Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Besalú, Cambridge, Dubrovnik, Edinburgh, Ghent, Hangzhou, London, Lucerne, Macao (China), New York, Lisbon, Seoul, Porto, Prague and Venice,.

The examples show that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ measure to tackle overtourism, and that any successful destination management strategy needs to be context specific. Although this might not come as a surprise, there is a connecting thread between the fundamental challenges: congestion in specific locations and sites at specific moments, mobility, pressure on infrastructure and resources, decrease in ‘place’ authenticity and impact on social fabrics and residents daily lives.

Consequently, the most common measures currently being implemented by destinations relate to the dispersal of visitors within the city and beyond, showing the pressing need to manage tourism congestion in certain areas and attractions. Measures with the aim of improving the city infrastructure and facilities are also frequently mentioned, reflecting the fact that many challenges are linked not only to the growing number of visitors but also to the pressure placed by residents, commuters and tourists on the city’s resources and services.

The Overtourism reports were produced in collaboration with the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH), Breda University of Applied Sciences, and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences.

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Tourism: Women Taking the Lead

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To mark International Women’s Day 2019 UNWTO, in collaboration with UN Women, the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ), World Bank Group and Amadeus, has today released preliminary findings of the Global Report on Women in Tourism, Second Edition.

ITB Berlin, the world’s leading trade fair, provided the backdrop to announcing The Global Report. The initial results indicate that across the private and public sectors women are harnessing the potential of tourism to become financially independent, challenge stereotypes and start their own businesses:

The majority of the tourism workforce worldwide is female

Tourism offers greater opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship than the wider economy

Tourism policies are increasingly addressing gender-equality

Research has also shown more and more women are challenging gender stereotypes in the sector. In Morocco women have been issued tour guide licenses for the first time. An airline in the UK has doubled the number of female pilots they employ. Uganda’s Hotel Owner’s Association is now lead by its first female CEO, Jean Byamugisha.

These are but a few examples which can be found around the world. Together, they add up to a growing trend.

Technology has also been an important factor for empowerment, providing women with more training opportunities and stimulating entrepreneurship through easier access to the tourism market.

In the public sphere, policy-makers are waking up to the importance of gender equality in tourism putting measures in place to ensure women fairly share the benefits that tourism can bring.

Speaking on these findings UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said that “tourism is leading the charge for female empowerment all over the world”.

He added: “UNWTO is firmly committed to working towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 – the empowerment of women and girls – and ensuring that tourism continues to be at the forefront of gender-equality efforts.”

UNWTO is compiling the second edition of the Global Report on Women in Tourism in collaboration with UN Women, GIZ, World Bank Group and Amadeus. These preliminary findings have been released to mark International Women’s Day 2019. The full report will be published in Autumn 2019.

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