The past year has seen the world change in ways one never could have dreamed of. Acts of terror, unpredictable national elections, and extreme social and economic policies - there is no region of the world that has not been impacted by a changing geopolitical environment.
The latest report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the global travel and tourism industry employs more people than the automotive manufacturing, banking, mining, chemicals manufacturing, and financial services sectors. Travel creates opportunities, empowers communities, and enhances local livelihoods, yet it is the one economic sector that gets affected the most by any blip in any part of the world. From terror, to weather, to itsy-bitsy mosquitos, the travel industry cannot anticipate where our next challenge will come from.
As the world changes, so do incentive travel patterns. It is here I find words and actions diverge. Incentive travel is about motivation. It's about providing that special impetus to make customers or employees feel good about their jobs. It's also about doing right by the destinations we visit. Incentive groups not only leave footprints behind, but also valuable dollars in spending. So, when a destination is suddenly excommunicated, the effects are tremendous. Coming from India, a developing nation, I understand this very well.
Is not travel also a socially responsible activity? Do we not support local cultures, people, and communities when we take incentive groups to a destination? Do we evaluate the consequences of placing a destination in cold storage? I have often been asked by our members across the world why there are different yardsticks for judging an incident in the developed world and the developing? I wish I had an answer that could make everyone happy.
Terrorism knows no distinction between race, culture, or creed. London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Istanbul, or Bangkok are all equally safe or unsafe. Companies that sell, buy, or source across different nations have a collective responsibility to stand up to those that wish to keep us home and show them that we will not be cowed. This does not mean we discount real dangers, but rather we do not label every incident the same.
In the world of incentive travel we often work with companies that are global - companies that have strong economic ties across the world. It is our role as incentive travel consultants and advisors to ensure that our clients have all the facts so that they can make informed choices, and are not just reacting to sensational headlines.
The world will always change. That is a constant. I call on the global incentive travel industry to embrace this reality and take on the challenge of continuing to deliver exceptional motivational experiences with an open mind and large heart.
Rajeev Kohli is SITE president for 2017 and joint managing director of Creative Travel Pvt. Ltd., based in New Delhi, India.