Month after month, the value of the global Tourism sector reveals its invaluable impact on economies, societies, futures. The monthly statistics on traveller movements and spend showcase the impact that individual travellers crossing borders, over 3.1 million per day, on the places that they visit and people that they meet.

The month of June has been particularly vivid in its expressions of impact, with the month opening with the IATA Annual General Meeting. With over 1000 leaders from the global aviation world coming together in Miami, including Presidents and CEOs from IATA’s 257-strong member airlines across the globe, the critical role of aviation to global development was clearly stated by Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO in his all-important ‘State of the Industry’ address where he spoke of the benefits created by “a worldwide network of some 51,000 routes“, continuing to explain that “this year 3.5 billion passengers and nearly 55 million tonnes of cargo will travel safely by air. And that’s only the beginning of the story. Airlines create jobs. We directly employ 2.5 million people. A further 56 million work in the value chain.  And there are countless more jobs in businesses that rely on airlines to deliver some $6 trillion of goods to global markets.”

Moving away from the numbers and making the more personal link to the travel & tourism sector,  the address went on to remind all present of the wonder of the freedom of movement: “Airlines create intangible benefits. How many deals are sealed in meetings that involved air travel? How many great ideas took root on a journey of discovery? How important are ties to family and friends maintained over great distances? And how can you measure the value of the freedom to expand horizons that air travel makes possible?”

All those in the great AGM hall, all experts in their respective areas of aviation, knew these words to be true. To pull back the velvet curtain of the glamorous, exciting world of aviation is to see the essential role that the industry plays, keeping the world moving forward, both for those travelling and those supporting the travel journey.

As the month unfolded, momentum of midyear travel activity continued to grow. Regional statistics showed signs for strong confidence for the all-important summer holiday season.

And then it was June 26th happened. Holiday makers lounging in beach chairs on the hotel-heavy beachfront of the resort town of Sousse, eyes and minds shut as they soaked up the sunshine and sensation of being on a long-awaited, deserved break, were woken by horror. Tragedy once again touched Tunisia, leaving 38 at the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel at a loss of life, a nation at a loss for words, and an essential tourism industry at a loss of hope.

With an immediate exodus of tourists, the tragedy began to soak more deeply into the national psyche, as the impact of the tourism industry – and its collapse – moved to the forefront of post-tragedy analysis. As stated by the Prime Minister of Tunisia, the tourism industry – a major artery of the Tourism economy and identity employing over 13% of Tunisians (just under 500,000 in 2014) and representing over 15% of GDP – is “drowning”.

This after a rallying of support for the sector by global travellers following March’s attack at Tunis’ Bardo Museum.

This time, it is harder for travellers to look to Tunisia as a real option.

Through the tragedy, one of the messages being magnified within and outside the industry: Tourism is vital to national stability and, in these times of crisis, recovery.

This message now echoes across Greece as the nation, which is also one of the world’s most desirable tourism destinations, faces economic crisis – crisis, and therefore looks desperately to Tourism, the employer of almost 1 in 5 Grecians and accounting for 17% of GDP, to keep the country economy and spirits buoyant.

As occurred in 2008 when the world was gripped by global economic downturn, understanding and appreciation has once again emerged around the economic value of sectors often overlooked as non-essential. Tourism remains at the forefront of the wave of awareness spreading out across global maps and markets. And also mindsets, for it is Travel & Tourism which makes it possible for different people from different parts of the world and come together to gain understanding, respect and appreciation for different ways of living, different ways of thinking, all while sharing similar dreams and desires for a future of peace and purpose.

Jobs. Earnings. Participation. Unity. Stability. Identity. Hope.

Qualitatively and quantitatively, the Travel & Tourism sector has become a critical lever for global stability, not just economically, but socially and spiritually. Especially during these trying times when the hearts, minds, hopes and travel movements of people across the world so dearly need to come together as one.


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015