The Tourism Bring People Together Summit, organized by the Institute of Tourism on December 20, 2023, was a groundbreaking event that delved into the evolving dynamics of human interactions in the tourism industry.

Tourism Bringing People Together Summit focused on the unifying power of travel and tourism. The panelists, each a distinguished figure in their field, shared their insights and experiences, contributing to a multifaceted understanding of how travel fosters global connections and cultural exchange.

The panel featured a remarkable array of distinguished speakers including Hon. Philda Nani Kereng (Minister of Environment & Tourism, Botswana), Hon. Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Awal (Minister of Tourism, Ghana), Mr. Peter Semone (Chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association), Mr. Dorji Dhradhul (Director General, Tourism Council of Bhutan), Prof. Francesco Frangialli (Former Secretary General of United Nations World Tourism Organization), Dr. Taleb Rifai (Former Secretary General UNWTO), Ms. Burcin Turkkan (Former President, SKAL International Executive Board, USA), Mr. Hisham Zaazou (Former Minister of Tourism, Egypt), and via video message Ms. Gloria Guevara (Chief Advisor at the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, former CEO of WTTC), organized by Dr. Reza Soltani (Institute of Tourism), and moderated by Dr. Jens Thraenhart (Founding Partner, Chameleon Strategies). Hon. Edmund Bartlett, MP (Minister of Tourism, Jamaica) unfortunately was not able to join the panel due an urgent last minute engagement.

The topic was of particular importance in these testing times of various conflicts from Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and various conflicts in Africa. Panelists spoke out about the issue of wars and there was agreement that there is no tourism without peace, and that the global travel and tourism industry has to come together to articulate a strong combined voice. The concept of adding a 4th P as in Peace was proposed by PATA to be added to the 3 Ps (People, Planet, Profit), and the idea of a “Tourism Year of Peace”, similar to a “Visit Year” used by various countries was floated. Tourism is a strong tool for mutual understanding between cultures and countries to create relationships and friendships, as cited by Bhutan as a strategic approach. Festivals, music, and culture can be strong leverage points to bring people together across nations, but also across continents to unite diaspora,as articulated by the Ministers from Ghana and Botswana. Africa and the Caribbean is a good example, and various bi-lateral relations are being formed to use tourism to connect countries, such as Jamaica and Botswana or Barbados and Ghana, as well as others. Also AFASU (Africa-Asia Union) is looking to bring cultures and nations together between Africa and Asia. Skal highlighted the need to build talent capacity to be able to execute on the mandate of tourism to bring people together and offer hospitality to make people feel welcome and safe. The advisor to the Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia showcased the Kingdom as a shining example to innovate tourism due to the three critical components of vision, leadership, and resources. The former Minister from Egypt highlighted the power of technology to facilitate tourism in times of crises to spread information and provide trust and safety, as he experienced during the Arab Spring.

Some of the key takeaways included the crucial role of sustainable practices in protecting cultural and environmental assets, technological advancements enhancing the personalization and accessibility of travel, the importance of preserving cultural heritage in tourism, the evolving role of hospitality in cultural understanding and exchange, and the empowerment of local communities through tourism.

The webinar concluded with a consensus on the need for the tourism industry to continually adapt and innovate in fostering human connections. The insights from the panelists painted a holistic picture of the current state and future potential of the tourism industry, with a clear emphasis on people-centered experiences, and included a forward-looking dialogue about the potential of travel and tourism to continue being a force for global unity and understanding. The panelists agreed that while challenges exist, the opportunities for positive impact through thoughtful and sustainable tourism are immense.


Dr. Jens Thraenhart, Founding Partner of UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies and Editor of the blog, I was honored to guide a rich discussion during the International Summit with the topic of “Travel and Tourism Bring People Together,” organized by the Institute of Tourism, focused on the unifying power of travel and tourism. The panelists, each a distinguished figure in their field, shared their insights and experiences, contributing to a multifaceted understanding of how travel fosters global connections and cultural exchange.

 As the moderator, having led the national tourism board of the government of Barbados in the Caribbean, and the regional tourism board of the Mekong Region for the six governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, PR China, Thailand, and Viet Nam, I was particularly impressed by the depth and variety of perspectives shared. The panelists’ contributions provided a comprehensive understanding of how different sectors within the tourism industry are working towards more connected, sustainable, and enriching travel experiences. The webinar also addressed the challenges faced by the tourism industry in the post-pandemic era, focusing on how to rebuild trust and safety among travelers. The panelists shared insights on adapting to new travel norms and the opportunities arising from these changes.

Finally, it was important for the panelists to speak out against the various conflicts in the world, including Russia-Ukraine, Israel-Palestine, and Myanmar in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

For more detailed information, and to view the video recording of the webinar, please visit the Institute of Tourism’s website.

Related articles : 

PATA Chairman, an American, blasts global geopolitical unrest as “existential threat” to tourism, by Travel Impact Newswire

WTN, PATA, IIPT Tourism Leaders First to Speak Out on Gaza,  by WTN

Tourism Facing a New War, Prof. Francesco Frangialli

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