THE WORLD TRAVEL & Tourism Council in October elected Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, as its next chairman.
Nassetta, who has been a member of the WTTC executive committee since 2011 and vice chairman for North America since 2014, will assume the leadership role in April during the council’s annual summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He will succeed Gerald Lawless and work with WTTC president and CEO Gloria Guevara during his two-year term.
WTTC is a recognized global authority on the worldwide economic impact of travel and tourism. It represents 185 countries.
In advance of his induction, Nassetta participated in a Q&A with Asian Hospitality.
What led you to become part of WTTC’s leadership six years ago?
The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, supporting 292 million jobs and generating 10.2 percent of global GDP. Given the broad-reaching impact of everything we do, I wanted to contribute to an effective global trade association for our industry.
What issues did world tourism face then? And what has changed?
Over the last several years, our industry has worked together during a time of increasing globalization and automation to best leverage the opportunities these trends present – for our businesses and our people. We’ve also focused on policies and practices that support international travel, while still promoting safety and security as the top priority. Looking ahead, these areas will continue to be a major focus.
How critical is the U.S. in the scheme of world travel and tourism?
We’re living in a “Golden Age of Travel,” with international arrivals expected to surpass 1.8 billion by 2025. While our industry is truly a global one, the U.S. does play a big role in our business – on both an inbound basis and serving as an outbound market to other parts of the world. At Hilton, more than 80 percent of our more than 5,100 hotels are in the U.S. And with another nearly 1,400 hotels in our U.S. pipeline, we’re continuing to see great growth and investment in this market.
In your remarks in the WTTC news release regarding your appointment as chair-elect, you noted governments and the industry can work together to support security and travel. Where do you see the gaps between the two entities?
With the dramatic growth in international travel, we need an effective global body like the WTTC to help governments recognize and support the value of our industry. The two big areas I see for greater alignment are improving national visa systems and border crossings, as well as focusing government policies on our economic and employment contributions.
You also mention youth unemployment. What exactly can the travel and tourism industry do to positively impact this trend?
As one of the world’s largest employers, the travel and tourism industry is already playing a major role in addressing the youth unemployment issue. At a time when so many other industries are digitizing and automating jobs, we will always be an industry that’s centered on people serving people. Collectively as an industry, we’re expected to generate or support 86 million new jobs by 2026. And as we grow, we’ll continue to create opportunities for employment, especially for the next generation of leaders.
With ongoing wars forcing people to flee their homelands, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and mass violence, and fears about weak border controls in the U.S. and elsewhere – what do you see as the overarching silver lining in the travel industry in America and worldwide?
At Hilton, we believe in the power of world peace through international trade and travel. While there may be uncertainty in the world, the hospitality we provide to our guests and communities has a profoundly positive impact. Just recently I saw this firsthand when I visited with our teams in Texas and Puerto Rico following this year’s disastrous hurricane season – the outpouring of support and love for one another that I witnessed was deeply inspiring. As an industry with a truly global reach, we’re uniquely positioned to have this kind of a positive impact all around the world.