The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), one of the world’s largest travel industry organizations, has named Gloria Guevara Manzo as its new president and CEO.

Guevara, who served as Mexico’s secretary of tourism from 2010 to 2012 and was most recently a special advisor on government affairs at Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment at the School of Public Health, is the first female head of WTTC and the organization’s first CEO from Latin America.

Guevara believes this is a critical time for the travel industry. “Future forecasts are strong, but with ongoing terrorism and environmental challenges, compounded by a world that is simultaneously ever more connected yet increasingly divided, now, more than ever, the sector needs to come together with one voice,” said Guevara, in a statement.

“Travel & Tourism needs to show not only its economic importance but also how it is committed to creating sustainable livelihoods, protecting nature and cultures, and asserting itself as a responsible and leading player in this fast-evolving world,” she said.

WTTC didn’t immediately comment on Guevara’s status as the organization’s first female CEO. But Guevara’s appointment to lead one of the world’s largest travel organization’s sends a powerful message to the travel industry where men dramatically outnumber women at the executive level, particularly at airlines, hotels and online travel agencies.

WTTC is also likely looking to leverage Guevara’s experience and connections in Latin America. She spent 15 years at Sabre’s Mexico arm and worked closely with Mexico’s airline industry, including Aeroméxico.

Given the pressures in travel distribution these days and U.S. tensions with Mexico,   Guevara’s employment experience could serve the organization well.

Guevara is succeeding David Scowsill, who became WTTC’s president and CEO in 2010 and stepped down in June.

Guevara is a well-known and respected in the travel industry, said Gerald Lawless, WTTC’s chairman, in a statement. “I am delighted that she will lead WTTC into the next phase of its development,” he said. “Gloria was chosen from a competitive field of international candidates. With a career encompassing senior roles across the private sector, government and academia she brings a unique combination of experience and expertise.”

Mexico news site Milenio.com reported in February that Mexico’s government also considered submitting a bid for Guevara to be the next Secretary-General of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) but it’s unclear whether Mexico followed through. Guevara was not one of the finalists.

WTTC has had only three other CEOs since it was founded in 1990: Geoffrey Lipman (1990-1999), Jean-Claude Baumgarten (1999-2010) and Scowsill from 2010 to 2017.

WTTC’s ranks include more than 150 CEOs and executives of some of the world’s largest travel companies, including Marriott International, Airbnb and Ctrip, for example.

Unlike many other travel organizations, WTTC’s members represent virtually every travel industry sector such as airlines, cruises, hotels, travel agencies and tour operators.

The organization works with governments and private sector partners to help them implement tourism strategies and understand the value of the travel industry in their economies. The global travel industry both directly and indirectly supports more than 292 million jobs and generates 10.2 percent of global GDP, according to WTTC.

Speaking to Skift before he stepped down in June and prior to Guevara’s appointment, Scowsill said that one of the cornerstones of his legacy is the ongoing Global Leaders For Tourism campaign that he began with UNWTO in 2012.

Scowsill and his team met with more than 80 heads of state as part of the campaign to present them with an Open Letter on tourism and encourage them to speak to the media about why tourism is important in their countries.

Challenges such as overtourismswells of populist political movements across the U.S. and Europe – which have seen protectionist policies introduced that impact travel – and how governments respond to terrorism’s travel impact will undoubtedly be some of the first issues that Guevara will need to tackle in her new role.

Tags: ceos, tourism, wttc
Photo Credit: Gloria Guevara Manzo, pictured here, is taking over the helm at WTTC as its first female CEO and was previously Mexico's Secretary of Tourism. World Travel & Tourism Council