UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said technology is today’s game changer at his ITB 2015 opening address in Berlin, Germany on March 3, 2015. Rifai said, “Technology has connected billions of people across the planet in real time, empowering them, providing a voice to the silent and creating a new sense of collective responsibility. The rise of the new technologies, coupled with the global economic downturn, was indeed the perfect setting for a new paradigm – a time when power shifts from governments to citizens and from companies to consumers”.
Rifai shared three ways in which such paradigm shift is shaping travel and tourism:
1. First, the emergence of new business models.
Collaborative consumption – or the “peer-to-peer economy” - is breeding new business models as individuals have found ways to profit by sharing their assets, be it real estate or vehicles. While we must welcome innovation, we must also underline the need of the sector to find progressive solutions to safeguard consumer rights and quality standards, and to ensure a level playing field for all businesses to thrive competitively.
2. Second, the call for accountability
Today, destinations and companies can reach out directly to consumers through a range of digital platforms. Conversely, consumers have access to more information, more choices, and more opportunities to voice their opinions.
Today’s consumers can be the whistle-blowers for unethical practices or the biggest ambassadors for great experiences.
Going beyond words or slogans, destinations and companies must find ways to adapt and build their “brand” on concrete and relevant actions.
3. Third, the value of our shared responsibility
With power comes responsibility – a shared responsibility towards the planet and the people. Now more than ever we must ask ourselves – does tourism contribute to the wellbeing of the world, or to its peril?
And as we talk about shared responsibility allow me to recall that today we celebrate World Wildlife Day.