Travel could not ignore the “financial tsunami” thrown at it, was the message from Fiona Jeffery, architect and chairwoman of World Travel Market.

There is little doubt that in 2009 in western Europe there will be less holiday packages sold and those that are will cost more she argued.

Just as governments have banded together to seek global solutions to the world’s financial crisis, travel could seek a global approach to address how to maximise performance and move towards sustainable growth.

Jeffery said part of WTM’s role was to help businesses and markets plan business strategies for difficult times ahead. She said the economic crisis made it tricky to do so, but that responsible tourism – one of the main themes of this year’s exhibition – should remain in the forefront.

She said moral reasons alone would not be enough to force a shift in attitudes and practice towards responsible tourism. It was, she said, a misperception that the cost of a responsible tourism policy was prohibitive. “It makes business sense,” she said.

Jeffery also launched in her opening speech at WTM the Protect Children in Tourism campaign. Reportedly, 246 million children are engaged in child labour linked to tourism around the globe, Many more are involved in the tourism sex trade. “This is totally unacceptable,” said Jeffery, who pledged that while so much of responsible tourism had been “talking shop” it now had to “be doing”.

“CSR (corporate social responsibility) is a crucial part of today’s business agenda,” Jeffery added.

More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008