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Batten down the hatches and plan for the green economy says Lipman


In another interview with Vision on Sustainable Tourism Geoffrey Lipman speaks urgently about tourism going green

Valere Tjolle: So, where are we, the travel and tourism industry, or “Travelism” as you like to call it that is?
Geoffrey Lipman: We need a “Cold Shower of Realism.”
The global economy will at best be sluggish for the rest of the year and through much of 2011: at worst it will slide again into recession. The malaise in developed states, which still accounts for two thirds of the world’s production cannot be bailed out by the stronger performance of the developing.

At the very time we need another shot of public sector support for the stimulus, key countries are heading in the other direction big time, to move towards balanced budgets – which are essential in the election cycle (particularly in Europe which is one of the real global performance/market confidence drivers) & economic conventional wisdom

The G20 will try to manage the economic reprioritization and continue to consolidate its position as the key international forum for global economic management but expect tougher consensus building due to shifting political realities, Euro zone challenges / mid - term elections in November in the US / new leaders in key countries Australia, Japan, Korea and UK. So steady progress rather than the decisive coordinated stimulus of 2008/9. There is also going to be continued priority international focus on ensuring the banking crisis gets fixed and stays fixed and on containing unemployment. So many priorities and so little time. And Climate, MDG’s & the Doha Round haven’t gone away.

VT: So no help from the big economy?
GL: It’s jobs stupid! Look out for strikes across Europe as unions and public sector workers try to resist the new economic directions that they rightly say will be aimed at their benefits, but equally rightly are necessary if state budgets are to be more balanced. And expect less than decisive response by industry faced with new taxing and spending directions from key governments and torn between hiring incentives and their own need to stay flexible and cash flow capable in continuingly uncertain times. In the UK for example, the emergency budget is demanding massive cuts in public sector spending over the next 5 years, across all departments - and labour cost will be a major factor.

To add to the mix it is almost impossible to envisage a strong consumer or business confidence in these circumstances, as households feel their disposable income shrink and see a weakening job market 24 on 7 on the global media and companies look to continuing austerity to maintain competitiveness and await a clear upturn in markets.

It’s hard to rely on statistics in the best of times - even harder today. Everyone has a vested interest in presenting matters in the best light. It is easy to overlook the base of growth comparison - the stark losses of 09 and the sharp declines of the last quarter of 08. Often, partial information is all that’s available:  so traffic or capacity growth may show promise but parallel cost/revenue data may show a different picture - growth for example can mask labour cuts or weak income, from high discounts/low yields,

VT: And the Climate situation?
GL: We cannot, must not, simply ignore structural problems that have dominated the geopolitical agenda of the last decade – most notably climate, poverty and trade realignment. In the short term we can expect a growing pressure for taxes to help fight global warming (or at least notionally tagged for that purpose, while simply filling public coffers). We must also expect a geopolitical struggle led by the BRICS to keep the drive on debt elimination/adjustment support for the world’s poorest countries.

And at the same time, there’s a continuing round of mega disasters which seem to be intensifying or at least increasingly apparent as multimedia expands & instant information globalizes. Earthquakes, floods, pandemics & terror will continue to threaten. The only positive counterbalance will be success of the new global economic coherence (which is difficult to assess) & innovation which is, totally unpredictable.

For “Travelism” it’s going to be continuing tough times before any sustainable upturn. Externalities will only improve slowly: too many stakeholders are still hurting from the past two years to do little but batten down the hatches, keep costs low, focus only on best return business, and go with the short term flow.

VT: So are there any opportunities?
GL: It’s clear the near term opportunity is in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, S. America/ Caribbean and New Europe. China and India will remain top of the list. But beware that old money will be very cautious & new can afford to be very discerning.

Long term the only future is Green, so we better face up to it now and

Embrace Tom Friedman’s Green Economy criteria - less energy from hell, coal & oil / more renewable energy from heaven / link energy tech & infotech to manage change / with social inclusion for the poorest & biodiversity conservation for the planet..

Push Travelism as a lead sector for Green Growth - because it can create more jobs, trade, development and understanding than any other industry or service.

Move beyond our silos – public and private leaders in transport, tourism & hospitality should adopt key level green playing field norms and press the case together..

Reflect contemporary green economics - including Sarkhozy / Stiglitz sustainable gnp thinking and harmonized  Environment, Aviation and Tourism data sets.

Put the quadruple bottom line at the heart of Travelism - not as an afterthought: climate is an addition to the triple economic, social, environment balance)

Pursue Smart Travel – clean, green, ethical and quality at every level of the product and service value chain from luxury to mass market.

GeoffreyLipman is currently director of and Advisor to Schuman Associates Brussels as well as UNWTO, the World Economic Forum and Dragon Trail China.  He is former President of WTTC See:

Get free sustainable tourism reports from Vision on Sustainable Tourism HERE

Valere Tjolle is editor of the Sustainable Tourism Report Suite SPECIAL OFFER AT:


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