Mark Chesnut: Guest reporter at the WTTC Americas Summit
When it comes to taking advantage of the enormous economic potential of global tourism, one of the world’s most successful businessmen, Mexican telecommunications executive Carlos Slim has some innovative suggestions for the travel industry: make the Customs and Immigrations experience “like a party” for international travellers and replace the “think tank” aspect of large organisations with an action-oriented philosophy.
Slim, a VIP attendee of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s inaugural Americas Summit, held in the Riviera Maya in Mexico, shared his perspective on the importance of tourism as an economic driver, as well as his insights as one of the world’s most successful and well-respected businessmen.
His observation that Customs and Immigrations departments are in need of overhaul should catch the ears of anyone who holds a passport.
“[Customs and Immigrations at airports] should not [be] this environment where you feel like you’re coming to an insecure place,” Slim said, in an interview with Mexico Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara Manzo and WTTC President and CEO David Scowsill. “[It should be] a warm welcome, not only when you go to the airport, but at the hotel. Immigrations officers and customs [officials] must have this relationship with the ministry of tourism, and bring a friendly aspect [to travel].”
Slim’s insights also included a directive for any successful company, both those in tourism and beyond: “You need to have very good human capital, a very good human team. That’s what makes things move, and not have too many levels of decision. You need more than a think tank – it’s better to have action tanks.”
Slim also emphasised the importance of a strong economic foundation in fostering growth in tourism. In discussing the economic woes of certain European Union countries such as Spain, Slim offered several potential solutions to ease its massive debt and unemployment.
“They have 10,000 kilometers of highways – they should collect a toll,” Slim said. “They have airports -- they should sell them. They have a great amount of assets that could be operated by the private sector.”
Such developments, he said, help reduce debt and stabilise the economy, which is in turn critical in developing a viable middle class – a critical aspect to a thriving economy. In addition, Slim supported the idea of making visas more accessible, especially for low- and middle-income travellers.
“It’s important to offer more to tourists,” he said. “We have to think of this from [the perspective of various income levels of] visitors, [with respect to] visa processing and tax policies.”
“Tourism is an important [industry] and it’s important to support it. It’s part of the well-being of the population.”