WTTC President & CEO advocates freedom to travel

Published on : Saturday, April 29, 2017

WTTC President & CEOGlobal travel industry leaders are concerned about how to respond to pressure for tougher border controls, particularly from the US. To quote WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill at the WTTC summit in Bangkok: “Governments are calling into question some of the basic freedoms of movement and trade upon which all our businesses depend. People need to be able to travel – to cross international borders freely and easily. We believe in the fundamental right of anyone to travel.”

However, Marriott International chief executive Arne Sorensen, a senior figure within the WTTC, told the summit: “It’s not enough to talk about freedom to travel.” Scowsill said about the US ban on travellers from six Muslim majority countries, “Imposing a ban on anybody is wrong. Closed borders lead to closed minds.” He called for a slackening of travel restrictions, saying: “Visa reform is the biggest single step any government can take. Let’s lose the bureaucracy.”

But according to Sorensen “People are frightened – terrorism and safety is a real concern – and they are confused. They don’t know what limits there are to immigration. It is not enough for us to talk about freedom to travel or a right to travel. We have to engage in addressing these issues. We need to stress that travel and immigration are not synonymous. We need to help deal with immigration through the use of biometric data. We should not talk about freedom to travel, but say ‘These are what the rules should be’.”

Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UNWTO said “Security doesn’t mean building walls or banning people from travel, which ultimately serve the terrorists’ agenda. There is nothing better than tourism to break down barriers.”

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