China, Brexit and diversity all discussed on WTM global stage

china brexit
china brexit

China will overtake France as the world’s largest tourist destination by 2030, a leading research firm has predicted.

Euromonitor International says demand from visitors from countries surrounding China and rising middle class prosperity in Asia will see France lose its position as the world’s most popular holiday spot.

Speaking at WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International’s head of travel, said that in addition, Thailand, the US, Hong Kong and France would be the chief beneficiaries of growing demand.

The UK outbound market faces the uncertainty of Brexit, she said, while another concern was the ageing UK population with less disposable income, with the proportion of the population in the lower social classes set to increase by 2030.

She predicted there would be 22 million in social class D and 18 million in class E, which would have a knock-on effect. “The industry will suffer from price competitiveness and a search for value,” she said. Bremner said young people in the UK also had less money than in the past. “Whereas it is the opposite in Asia.”

Euromonitor said a no deal Brexit would boost inbound tourism to the UK by pushing down the value of the pound by around 10%. In another session, Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, dismissed suggestions that aircraft would be unable to fly once the UK left the EU if no air services agreement was reached.

“I am confident there will be a deal on aviation,” he said. He added that in a worse case scenario of ‘no deal’, “a bare bones agreement would kick in”.

“The detail of it remains to be seen, but we are assuming bare bones connectivity, nobody disagrees on that,” he said.

A different outlook on the industry’s future came from an all-female panel discussing diversity led by broadcaster June Sarpong.

Sarpong said: “When women are in the room, innovation happens, progress happens. The question you need to ask is, is everyone in the room?” She said this was particularly relevant in travel, “because it is about connecting different backgrounds, different religions, different ethnicities”.

The session heard from Zina Bencheikh, general manager, EM and North Africa, PEAK Destination Management, who outlined how a pilot project in Morocco had led to 13 women working as tour leaders for her company.

She said bringing more women into key tourism jobs was crucial in the developing world. “In Morocco, women have the right to vote, but 75% do not work and 80% in rural areas, which are 50% of the country, are illiterate.”

But she said there were still obstacles to overcome, with, for example, a gender equality training session in her company attracting only two men.

Jo Phillips, vice president talent and culture, Carnival UK, said there was also a commercial imperative to make women feel included: “Women are the key decision makers. Connecting with them and making them feel like they have a voice is absolutely crucial.”

Her advice to female employees was: “Seize any opportunity you can to get involved in discussions. If issues are not being talked about, ask why.”

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