The advance of new technology is driving a need for greater responsibility and accountability among travel and tourism companies, the UNWTO has warned.
In his opening address at the ITB travel trade show in Berlin, UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai said that the balance of power in the tourism industry is shifting from governments and companies to citizens and consumers.
This power comes from the use of technology, and the ease with which travellers can post reviews, comments and photos on social media or websites like TripAdvisor.
And while Rifai said such channels were “game changers”, giving companies the ability to target their customers directly, he also warned that companies are now accountable to their customers, and as such, need to be increasingly aware of their responsibilities.
“Today’s consumers can be the whistle-blowers for unethical practices or the biggest ambassadors for great experiences,” said Rifai. “Going beyond words or slogans, destinations and companies must find ways to adapt and build their brand on concrete and relevant actions”.
Rifai also said the industry needs to find “progressive solutions to safeguard consumer rights and quality standards and to ensure a level playing field for all businesses to thrive competitively”.
The power brought in by technology, warned to Rifai, comes with “a shared responsibility towards the planet and people”.
“Over one billion tourists travel across international borders each year; I trust that this is a movement of hope; of opportunities to build a better world – a world of respect and understanding as we can never hate the one who has hosted us,” he stated.
“We are thus part of a much bigger, transformative force that can instigate real change in the world; let’s take this power and act with responsibility.”