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Eight groups jump on new coalition to press case for tourism
Raini Hamdi, reporting from WTTC Global Summit, Tokyo, April 20, 2012

EIGHT travel and related associations have jumped on a new coalition to press a case for tourism to governments.

As of now, the coalition comprises the WTTC, UNWTO, IATA, PATA, World Economic Forum, American Society of Travel Agents, Cruise Lines International Association, Airports Council International and the US Travel Association.

Their alliance was a result of a call in May last year by the WTTC for the industry to come together with one voice to effectively engage governments to give real support to tourism.

Governments continue to confound the industry with their bureaucratic visa processing and taxation policies, the UK APD and EU-ETS being the most odious taxes right now. These two current hot button issues – visas and taxes – reflect governments' lack of real understanding of how tourism could support the economy, industry CEOs said.

IATA's director-government and industry affairs, Jeff Poole, said IATA alone could not convince governments of the foolishness of taxation, which was why it joined the coalition. He scathingly said that "politicians don't know, don't want to know and when they do know, they don't care".

A tourism minister, South Africa's Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said the sooner the industry organised itself property, the faster the government sector would engage it, rather than the other way round. He said while the coalition was fine, it was still too 'loose'. It needed a permanent institutional mechanism that could effectively convey the industry's unified view on a specific issue.

David Scowsill, WTTC's president and CEO, said the coalition was about "coalescing around the same issue" and demonstrating a case through research findings and where it actually counted for politicians, for example, connecting jobs to visas.

The coalition's immediate opportunity is to make a go of the G-20 leaders meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, this June and present each G-20 country a "profile" of how its visa processing policies impact jobs. Preliminary findings of research for this campaign commissioned by WTTC and UNTO show, for example, that for every 37 extra visas the US issues, it is creating one job.

Scowsill also pointed out that it was thanks to intense lobbying by WTTC member CEOs such as Bill Marriott and Hubert Joly (Choice Hotels International) that "finally resulted in President Obama’s Executive Order to Hilary Clinton in the state department, to speed up visa processing from Brazil, China and other countries”. 

Said Scowsill: "Only last week President Obama signed another significant agreement on the same visa issue with the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff. Obama finally 'gets it'. Let’s hope he is still around after November, otherwise we will have to start over again with someone else."

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