FORMER UK prime minister David Cameron has urged the global tourism industry to work closely with governments and embrace new technology to boost traveller safety and cross-border security amid increased challenges.
In a keynote speech at yesterday's World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)'s summit in Bangkok, Cameron, who resigned from the premiership following the Brexit vote in June, said US President Donald Trump's travel ban against six predominantly Muslim nations was the biggest problem facing the tourism industry, even though the ban had been stopped by US judges.
Thailand's Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha also spoke during the opening ceremony, saying that the government needs to adopt a balanced approach in dealing with terrorism and other threats as the country last year attracted more than 30 million tourists, resulting in revenues of more than Bt2.52 trillion (S$ 1.2 billion).
Regarding new technology, Cameron said governments should use more biometric data and other advanced systems to strengthen border controls and screen international tourists.
The former UK premier also highlighted the positive impacts of tourism on national economies as the industry accounts for about 10 per cent of global jobs and GDP.
For underdeveloped and developing counties, tourism's trickle-down effects can change societies for the better in terms of stronger and more rapid economic growth and job creation.
Regarding Brexit, which his government had campaigned against, Cameron said the vote for Britain to leave the European Union could be seen as representing a reversal of globalisation as some people felt they were being left behind.
However, Cameron said he did not believe that globalisation was a failure but agreed it needed to change course. British voters wanted to leave the EU because they felt the pace of immigration went too fast and too far.
In this context, better technology was needed for border controls and the screening of international tourists, but the answer was not building a wall, as sought by US President Trump, Cameron said.
Biometric data and other technologies should be used in visa and immigration processes as freedom to travel as well as free trade were among the best measures to ensure peace, he said.
Overall, the global tourism industry needs openness while one of its biggest challenges is terrorism and extremism.
Cameron urged global leaders to boost their alliances with moderate Muslims to defeat extremists.
As a former premier, he said national security came first when there were threats and he also urged the tourism industry to work more closely with governments to tackle these issues, especially with regards to the use of new technology.
Prayut said environmental sustainability was another key issue facing the tourism industry in Thailand as the country relied significantly on tourism for jobs and economic growth.
He also said that his government had adopted the "Thailand-Plus-One" policy to promote its trade and investment as well as the tourism industry.
This means that Thailand is being positioned as a gateway to connect to other ASEAN countries, especially Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, to create a single ASEAN tourist destination.
This year is being dubbed the "Visit ASEAN 50 Year" to mark the regional grouping's 50th anniversary when more than 120 million international tourists are expected to visit ASEAN countries.
Prayut said tourism could help reduce poverty and conflicts among nations while upgrading quality of life.