He’s only been out of office for a few years, but it’s still refreshing to hear a politician articulate the importance of travel and the benefits of tourism.
Barack Obama did a lot for travel and tourism during his time as U.S. president, and his stock in the industry has only risen since his successor took over.
Borders, walls, and restricting immigration have been featured heavily during the Trump presidency so it’s no surprise that Obama has different views.This situation isn’t restricted to just the United States. Outbreaks of populism, nativism, and xenophobia have erupted across Europe and elsewhere.
“Whether it’s Brexit in the UK or the political upheavals that have happened in the United States or some of the surge in populism in continental Europe, all of those are not just reactions to economic changes but also a reaction to people feeling that their status is being eroded or the assumption [of] what their country is being undermined, and they want to either put up genuine walls or metaphorical walls to preserve what they think they have,” Obama told delegates at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2019 Global Summit in Seville, Spain, on Wednesday.
But, Obama said, putting up borders cannot solve the economic and cultural issues parts of the world face.
“If we try to reassert these very hard fixed borders at a time when technology and information are borderless, not only will we fail, but I think we are going to see greater and greater conflict and greater and greater clashes between peoples,” he said.
What the Travel and Tourism Industry Need to Do
One of the regular complaints that the travel and tourism industry has is that governments across the world ignore it, despite it playing such a big part in many of their economies.
“I think making the case to governments and leaders about the economic benefits and values of tourism obviously is the easiest way to get their attention because there’s no government and no leader on the planet right now who’s not thinking about how I make sure that the economy is growing and people are gainfully employed…,” Obama said.
Being clear and coherent about what governments can do to help, or speaking out if they are doing something that is hindering tourism, is also crucial.
Obama gave an example from his two terms in office of streamlining foreign tourist visas in fast-growing countries such as Brazil and China.
“That’s an example of something that is concrete and it’s specific and with all the things that most government have on their plate it’s important to make things simple for them, narrow it down, as opposed to just a general ‘can you help us with tourism?’” he said.
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Photo credit: Former US President Barack Obama on stage at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Seville, Spain. Obama spoke about challenges to the sector. World Travel and Tourism Council