The 20th World Routes Tourism Summit got off a flying start today with a discussion on how established and emerging destinations are attracting new visitors. Chaired by Spencer Stuart consultant, Michael Bell, the panel debated topics including what new adventures are travellers seeking, what new methods are being implemented to attract new tourist flows and how do you create a truly sustainable industry.
Visit England’s CEO, James Berresford kicked things off with an explanation of how London can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse, noting that though the city is one of the world’s strongest brands, it has a tendency to overshadow the country’s other destinations.
“England has so much more to offer but we are viewed as very London-centric nation in terms of flights. That’s why we are currently trying to push alternative or additional routes into England, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Newcastle,” he said.
Berresford’s comments on visitors’ need for “authenticity” sparked passionate agreement from the other panelists, all of which agreed that travellers want to connect with “real people in real communities”, rather than fabricated experiences.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport for St Kitts and Nevis, Ricky Skerritt, said the turning point for many nations, especially islands, is when governments realise that you can change lives through tourism. “Citizens of the country must benefit as widely as possible from tourism’s economic impact,” he stated. “We really started to seriously focus on tourism just a little over a decade ago, allowing us to assess the current trends and incorporate best practices, without having to worry about dealing with an abundance of legacy issues.”
Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Aviation, Rosemarie Andolino, and Valencia Tourism’s aviation manager, Miguel Alberto Smith, agreed that destinations have to take advantage of events such as the World Route Development Forum to market themselves and raise awareness. Both hail from cities that aren’t necessarily at the forefront of potential visitors minds, behind New York, Washington and San Francisco and Barcelona and Madrid respectively, but both offer a wealth of world-class attractions and facilities.
Andolino noted the importance of co-operation. “Chicago is a city that works, but more importantly it is a city that works together. If you give visitors an authentic experience, they will share it through word of mouth and market your destination for you,” she said.
Director of landside operations at Punta Cana International Airport, Rafael Alberto Smith, rounded an engaging discussion off with his thoughts on creating a “seamless" ease of travel. “Increasing connectivity isn’t just about adding new flights into or out of a destination, but includes transfers from the airport, inter-city services such as buses and taxis or private concierge services like limousines,” he said.
All agreed that the common denominators found in those destinations that were successful growing their tourism offering was strong leadership and a true sense of working together.