Can Tourism Resist Nationalism and Populism?

WTTC Global Summit opening speaches of both WTTC President & CEO David Scowsill and ex Prime Minister David Cameron were about globalisation and its consequences on tourism. But more than that, it has been also about the anti-globalism movement which is blowing across the entire globe -sweeping more particularly the certainties of the Post-war period in the Western World.

Populism, nationalism: these were for both speakers the new enemies to fight. “Populism, nationalism are not doing well with travel”, said as a preamble David Scowsill. Populism, nationalism is everywhere and he could become a big handicap to a further growth of tourism and consequently bringing more understanding among people.

It has been expressed in Trump election and Brexit but also in the rise of right extremist populist movements in Austria, France, the Netherlands or Turkey. In Southeast Asia, they are tendencies to nationalism in countries such as Myanmar, the Philippines or Thailand.

“Tourism has the power to transform countries as it has a role to play in economic, social and cultural fields. It is a paradox to experience a rise in nationalism at a time when we think that globalisation turned our world smaller. But now our world looks more fractioned.

For Scowsill, the foundation of tourism relies on the right  to anyone to cross borders freely and easily. “We need policies fostering the freedom of travel. But challenges are building up to restrict these freedoms on an unprecedented scale”, he added.

Populist policies is in fact building up walls. Such as the Trump administration decision to try implementing a travel ban. As Scowsill indicated, the vision to suspend travel because of the nationalities or religion of certain travellers is wrong.””Governments are calling into question some of the basic freedoms of people movement and trade”, highlighted Scowsill.

“The fear engendered by dividing us into races or religions destroys the notion that each humain is unique. I believe that closed borders lead to closed minds”, he added.

“Trump travel ban labelling at countries deemed as dangerous because of their islamic roots is indeed a defeat for tourism”, echoed Ex UK PM David Cameron.

How globalisation has turned into a foil for many? David Cameron (the one who initiated the referendum over the exit of the UK from the EU) delivered his on analysis: “I believe that free trade, free movements of people is good. However, we now have the responsibility to look back at the globalisation and see what has gone wrong. To many people feel that they have been left out of the prosperity brought by globalisation. Most crucial is to look at education as it is the best way to give people a future”, said UK former Prime Minister.

According to Cameron, the pace of changes in many countries- particularly the quick rise of immigration has been matched with incomprehension by many.

Acts of terrorism certainly further contribute to obscure the short-term vision of politicians and consequently people. “We did not respond adequately to people’s listening to populism voices. I see actually two primary concerns. People are frightened by terrorism and feel confused and angry about immigration movements  which seem out of control”, said Arne Sorensen, CEO Marriott International.

“We have to explain to authorities that immigration and travel movements are not synonymous. Although we shoudl recognise that some travel policy can have consequences on immigration movements. But we do have today technology and ways to identify those movements”, added Sorensen.

“Travel is a right to anyone and is not anymore a right of a few privileged. Let’s keep it that way”, pleaded Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General UNWTO. I am sure that the foundation that we implement over the last decades to open travel will be difficult to change. I remain optimistic”, he told…