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Turning learning into a lever for sustainable smart growth of travel & tourism

Turning learning into a lever for sustainable smart growth of travel & tourism

The learning must never stop. Especially in these times of hyper-speed change.

For leaders in the global travel and tourism (T&T) sector, the need to understand changes in our sector is growing in intensity and immediacy. Whether within the public or private sector spheres, within whichever link in the travel & tourism experience chain one may be, comprehending the drivers and dynamics influencing demand and direction of the world’s great sector of global connectivity is a mandatory to ensure that growth is smart, sustainable, meaningful and responsible.

This reality has become, for many, a confession of sorts. Between AI, Apps and an array of new acronyms, new ways of engaging and executing are penetrating old models, often to the models’ swift demise. Pervasive digitization of our daily lives has made it more and more apparent that learning must be ongoing. Evolution, especially that driven by technology, is fast and fearless. And it is happening both on the front line of the T&T world, and behind the scenes. Systems, structures and sensibilities are being impacted, whether we see them or not.


Thankfully, embracing change is happening at both institutional and individual levels. Whether in tourism, aviation, cruise, or any other area, accelerated awareness of the influences of new technologies, new policies and new travelers has resulted in leaders getting closer to these and other issues, moving them to the top of organizational priorities and programmes. Alongside, the human capital implications – the attraction, retention and advancement of present and future of T&T sector leadership.

As stated by Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA:

“Aviation is a dynamic and growing industry. So, it is important that today’s aviation professionals and tomorrow’s industry leaders have the training needed to keep pace with the latest advances in global standards, best practices, regulations and technology. These are the focal points for IATA’s training offering which supports the industry in delivering ever more efficient, safer and sustainable connectivity.”

Some of these advances in aviation are visible in plain sight. Others are invisible, though they impact each and every plane taking to the skies. As a result, individual, institutional, and interdependent approaches to learning have become essential to ensuring the safety, security and sustainability of our sector as a global force for good.

Nowhere is this more true than in the area of air traffic management (ATM), as made clear by Jeff Poole, Director General of Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO).

“As automation and artificial intelligence play a fast-increasing role in air traffic management (ATM), the role of humans in intervention and control becomes even more vital in this safety-critical industry. In this context, the evolution of human skills through advanced individual learning is fundamental to the sustainability of ATM and its contribution to connectivity and the economic and social benefits of aviation.”


Openness towards collective advancement of learning within the sector has become a part of the DNA of T&T, with entities overtly seeking smarter approaches to sustainable development through the sector.

Putting digital transformation of the T&T sector at the heart of his leadership priorities, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the UNWTO, has become a champion for government tourism leaders needing to make the dramatic shift to the digital age, whether they ‘get it’ and know how to ‘get it done’ or not.

As clearly expressed by the Secretary General when speaking to G20 tourism leaders in April on the eve of the WTTC Global Summit in Buenos Aires:

“Let us embrace the technological revolution and unleash its potential to create more and better jobs in our sector.”

This belief was recently re-emphasized by the Secretary General at the opening of the 2nd UNWTO World Conference on Smart Destinations,:

“Technology helps us to better manage our social, cultural and environmental impacts. And if well managed, tourism can act as an agent of positive change for more sustainable lifestyles, destinations, and consumption and production patterns.”

Embedding a collective approach to step-change sector learning was transparent in the engineering of the conference – an engineering that has become a signature of the way forward for organizational engagement with its member States and the sector at large. As outlined by the UNWTO:

“In order to lead and shape new tourism models for the 21st century based on innovation, technology, sustainability and accessibility, the World Conference on Smart Destinations is the annual gathering of international tourism experts, discussing the opportunities and challenges for the tourism sector, and destinations in particular, arising from the development, implementation and management of innovative products and services that are based on new technological solutions. Bringing together government representatives, private sector entities, researchers and academics, as well as technology centers, the event is an important platform for participants to share knowledge, build partnerships and advance in their understanding about the development and key elements of smart destinations.”

The first and most fundamental step in our sector stepping forward to champion changes in the world of T&T? Knowing what we don’t know and finding ways of building competence and confidence together. Because together, across all countries and continents, platforms and policies, devices and daily discoveries, the stronger and smarter the mind of our sector becomes, the safer, smoother and more sustainable the heart and body of our sector will be.