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Interview: ‘We want to be the Davos for travel’

Evora Forum general secretary Christian Delom outlines ambitious agenda for change to Ian Taylor

An ambitious attempt to initiate a Davos-style forum for travel will open in Portugal in September.

The Evora Forum: A World for Travel aims to bring governments, industry leaders, academics, experts and NGOs together at “a forum for action”.

That is the desire of Christian Delom, Evora Forum general secretary, who insists this “is not just an additional event in the calendar. We’ll end with five commitments. Then each year consider the progress.”

Delom promises “precise commitments”, arguing: “General commitments are not commitments – they’re ‘goodwill’. We’ll speak about an issue, solutions and how to promote these. The commitments will be specific.”

He describes the Davos World Economic Forum, where the world’s central bankers, finance ministers, heads of state, economists and business leaders meet annually, as “an inspiration” saying: “We’ll create a Davos for travel and tourism.”

Delom argues the case for transforming the industry saying: “People want to go back to travelling but are more and more aware of the consequences and this awareness is going to grow.”

He warns: “Transformation implies there is time. But there is no time with all the issues we face – climate, food, overtourism, local people demanding a different tourism – and we have to take account of the multiplier effect. For example, the problem of climate is not only warming, it’s also rising sea level which will reshape coasts.

“If we don’t start proposing solutions, governments are going to. But we also have to emphasise the benefits of travel.”

So the first of the forum’s two days “will emphasise the problems tourism is creating and be honest about how to face them”. The second “will emphasise the benefits and solutions”.

“The commitments will cover local resources, warming, share of wallet, transport and how to travel – more often or less and for longer.”

Delom worked in the industry for 30 years at Air France, Amadeus and French tourism development agency Atout France where he says: “We only cared about numbers. We only wanted more tourists without understanding the consequences.”

Of airlines, he says: “They just talk to themselves. People say they want to change but don’t change.”

Now he lives in the Pyrenees where he notes 80% is protected “but six spots become overcrowded”. He says: “There are more than 1,000 lakes, but the tourist board promotes five”.

The forum will combine plenary sessions and workshops, with 120 speakers including government ministers and the backing of the UN World Tourism Organization, World Travel & Tourism Council, Pacific Asia Travel Association and European Travel Commission.

Delom says: “A lot of people are aware of the issues now. The pandemic helped to emphasise the necessity for transformation. But if we don’t do something, nothing will change.”

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