Tourism ministers and senior travel figures have called for better collaboration between governments globally on security to fight the terrorist threat to the industry worldwide.

Speaking at the 2016 United National World Tourism Organization and World Travel Market Ministers’ Summit, concerns were expressed about the lack of a “united approach” to help destinations work together to combat terrorism and its impact on tourism.

Ministers and senior travel industry figures made a plea for more countries to adopt electronic visa systems, a standard approach on security measures and better communication.

“We keep regarding each other as competitors but we have to co-operate on security and communicate better. We need to have multilateral communication strategies and not leave it to social media,” said Edward Zammit Lewis, minister of tourism for Malta.

TUI Group chief executive Fritz Joussen urged tourism ministers to put security at the top of the agenda. “Security must come first and this is a state responsibility,” he said.

UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai said governments needed to change they way they impose travel advisories. He said: “It’s crucial to defy these forces of darkness and keep borders open. Travel bans must be looked at in a different light. The advisoraries must be responsive and send the right message.

“These people [terrorists] know exactly what they are doing and where it hurts and it’s the infrastructure of our industry. They are trying to hurt us economically by crippling our countries. They want to get us to build walls between us; we should never submit to the agenda of these people. No country can claim to be 100% secure so we might as well be in all of this together: this is a global challenge and an increasingly big risk to seamless travel.”

World Travel & Tourism Council president David Scowsill urged countries to move to electronic visa systems, adding: “It’s much safer.”

Minister of tourism for Egypt Yehia Rashed called for a joint, standardised approach by countries’ governments. “We need a sustained security model in place. It’s up to all of us to make sure we have unified security measures; politics should be separate. It’s not just about technology and intelligence; we need a smart model to make it effective.”

Rifai said global tourism was continuing to grow despite terrorist activities and natural disasters . “This is the seventh year in a row we have seen above average growth except for during the global crisis in 2009. We must see this growth against a background of many challenges, including geo-political tensions, health pandemics and natural disasters.”

The UNWTO and WTM Ministers’ Summit on tourism came ahead of an inaugural event focusing specifically on crisis management in the travel industry. The International Travel Crisis Management Summit takes place in London on Thursday, November 10.