As Head of Research at the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Nejc Jus is better placed than most to understand the relevant trends in an ever-changing geopolitical landscape. The WTTC now has 200 members, encompassing CEOs and Chairs from across the globe – including Robin Ingle – quantifying the effects of travel and tourism (T&T) in great detail. Its annual Economic Impact Research study covers 185 countries and has been produced for 30 years, an invaluable tool for the sector.
WTTC predicts surge in travel and tourism jobs
While the pandemic was devastating, forecasts for the next 10 years are unerringly positive in terms of employment. “Before Covid-19, T&T outpaced the global economy for nine consecutive years. Now, there are a predicted 126 million new jobs in the sector from now until 2032, with an average annual growth of +5.8 per cent (T&T GDP), explained Jus. “What we need to do is ensure that the recovery is inclusive, sustainable and resilient. However, there are always geopolitical risks, alongside inflationary pressures eating into disposable incomes.”
But one of the most significant challenges that cannot be ignored is a lack of staff – and the report’s figures are stark. “The EU has an estimated 1.19 million shortfall (one in nine unfulfilled jobs), with 412,000 (one in 15) in the US. A key reason is that during the pandemic, many employees moved to other sectors for more opportunities, or out of the labour force entirely,” said Jus. “As T&T demand ramps up again, all different industries are struggling to fill vacancies, including hospitality, food beverage, ground and air transportation.”
So, what can businesses do? Key recommendations include:
- Facilitation of labour mobility
- More flexible and remote work
- Education, upskilling and reskilling
- Competitive staff benefits
- Strengthening collaboration at all levels, across public and private sectors.
The report also covers inbound T&T expenditure of foreign tourists pre- and post-pandemic, giving a unique indication of which countries have fared better in the past three years. “We looked at those places important for international spending across 2022, with Portugal (-8.6 per cent below 2019 numbers), and Mediterranean countries like Greece (-15.2 per cent) and Turkey (-19 per cent) scoring very well,” confirmed Jus. “On the other side of the spectrum, you have Thailand (-67 per cent) and Japan (-69 per cent) – but Japan has opened up recently, which is good news for the region."
But perhaps the most standout figure was the country forecast of inbound T&T tourism in terms of growth comparison, from 2019 to 2032. Saudi Arabia was at number one, at 210.3 per cent, with Thailand second on 70.1 per cent.
Public has a ‘strong appetite for travel’
While it’s never easy in the current climate to predict what will happen next, the WTTC does have clear ideas for what the T&T sector needs to focus on. “There is a strong appetite for travel,” said Jus. “According to Deloitte, over half of global consumers are planning to book a hotel stay over the next three months – with one third planning to take an international and domestic flight. And the first to return after travel restrictions eased were predominantly Gen Y and Z.” A definite trend the insurance sector cannot ignore.
This was echoed by Robin Ingle, a global specialist in mobility and student insurance, travel security and healthcare. And his introductory message was a clear one: “There are things that we have to change. More than ever, insurance is a hugely important part of the T&T experience. Providing peace of mind and risk mitigation to consumers, suppliers and organisations is a priority. T&T is dependent on trip cancellation, travel medical assistance and interruption coverage, as we take care of those tourists. We have to understand the value of our industry,” said Ingle.
While the pandemic caught the sector off guard, a pent-up demand is now being unleashed globally. Ingle believes this offers a major business opportunity: “We can attract customers by including additional services to meet our current reality, delivered with clear and concise messaging to alleviate the fear that is prevalent – our industry can do something about that fear. We have to get better at delivering clear information.”
Mental health a ‘key facet’ for travel assistance
Not only is he CEO of Ingle International, but the Canadian entrepreneur also has a significant stake in the technology sector, building software-as-a-service (SAAS) mobile and web platforms for healthcare companies and services. Travel Navigator is just one of these mobile apps, with collaboration a key tenet for success.
“What the world is all about today is cooperation with other best-of-breed companies. We work with others to bring certain products to customers. Are there services that you can bring in from other companies? Throughout my business career, I’ve worked with competitors.”
Ingle has another passion that he believes has much scope for development: “I deal with international students and educational institutions about the importance of travel and how it makes the world better. And key facet in travel assistance is some form of mental health counselling. We used to end up providing that service by accident, following a trauma or incident. But today, it’s vital to deliver some sort of coverage for certain types of issues – that specificity will take that edge off. If it’s an emergency assisAll recent contenttance phoneline, use chat or try to develop a mobile app. Add e-claims handling, simplifying processes.
“There’s a lot of little things you can do to take advantage of this situation. The world is crazy right now – so how do you benefit, while helping the people out there that want to travel?”
In conclusion, both Jus and Ingle are very optimistic for the future, but it’s how the sector embraces these opportunities that will dictate the ultimate winners and losers.