The concept of the complete visitor economy was endorsed by private and public sector speakers including Taleb Rifai Secretary General of the UNWTO, which has entered into a strategic partnership with PATA to boost tourism's profile in Asia Pacific.
Mr Rifai told the PATA Summit in Bangkok on April 26: "We have before us a crucial, and maybe unique, opportunity to advance tourism's contribution to a fairer and more sustainable growth, and to take the lead on the global stage as a sector that helps to create a brighter future. Tourism benefits many aspects of our lives - the economy, social progress, job creation, poverty alleviation and environmental preservation. These benefits need to be highlighted at the highest level."
The PATA CEO told the audience: "We need to get out of the mind set about tourism just being about lying on a beach."
But advancing the complete visitor economy to boost jobs and social development should also be consistent with environmental care.
"We need to tread likely as we develop," said the PATA CEO. "We have a duty to energize and motivate and do as little harm as possible."
Tourism bodies mustn't campaign in isolation. Mr Rifai said: "It is clear that global challenges require strong partnerships. For the tourism sector to be seen as a positive agent for change, we need to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and consider the challenges which lie ahead."
Gloria Guevara, former Secretary of Tourism in Mexico, and a pioneer in getting tourism acknowledged at the G20 Summit last year, told the PATA Annual Summit attendees that travel and tourism creates about 9% of global GDP globally and 255 million jobs around the world. Tourism is bigger than the automotive, agriculture and mining industries and needs to be better respected, she said.
"Getting alignment is vital to progress. It's not about leaders. We need one voice."
Lothar Pehl, SVP Operations at Starwood Asia Pacific told the audience that the travel industry was defined by a new generation of consumers that bring new opportunities. However, "Travel and tourism has a far greater role to play in development than we have currently been used to."
However, the benefits of the complete visitor economy don't just stop at jobs, said Abid Butt, Chief Executive Officer of Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts. There's a larger cultural return on investment.
"The social and cultural benefits of this industry are unbelievable. As people travel they become far more accepting of each other," said Mr Butt.