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A disruptive challenge: UNWTO investigates offers of new platforms

Dr. Taleb Rifai, Generalsekretär der UNWTO

Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, was unequivocal about the situation in the travel sector: “We have a problem with innovation and with thinking outside the box“, he said at ITB Berlin, and briefly outlined how the tourism industry should react to the new P2Ps and platforms on offer: “We should not fight them, because they contain many positive elements, but we should know how to deal with them“, explained Rifai, who pointed out that these are commercial services offered via digital platforms, and not a case of unpaid exchanging or sharing.

John Kester, who is currently conducting a survey on this subject for the UNWTO, and who has already evaluated over 100 responses from a wide range of countries, emphasizes that the platforms on offer would contribute to the expansion of the tourism sector because travel would be more accessible to wider sections of the population, and people would be encouraged to travel more often. Obviously these new trends do present a disruptive challenge for existing providers.

Kester described five areas where the travel industry will have to adjust to new offers: information, accommodation, transport, food and activities. The emergence of new platforms in these five areas introduces a whole range of questions concerning, for example, such issues as fair competition, tourism planning and sustainability, consumer protection and the working conditions of those providing the services. As Kester explained, for tourism providers it is important to be able to understand and to observe the developments, which are frequently technology-driven, to modify and adapt what they themselves offer, and also to set up systems providing protection and regulation.

Rainer Heubeck

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