Barack Obama didn’t mince his words about the future of travel when he took to the stage to be quizzed by Hilton chief executive Chris Nassetta at the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit. By Holly Tuppen.
Obama warned the audience against tightening borders at a time when technology allows us to move freely.
He added: “If we try to reassert these very hard, fixed borders at a time when technology and information are borderless, not only will we fail but we’ll see greater conflict and clashes between people.”
From his recollections, it became clear much of Obama’s dedication to diversity and inclusion stemmed from his own travel experiences – from sharing meals with strangers in Europe to observing family life in Kenya.
He said: “Travel helps us to value the diversity of this planet and the differences we have. But travelling also reminds us of what we share – what we have in common.”
Obama referenced the power of travel, citing cultural exchange as an essential part of his presidential trips.
He said: “What I understood is that part of diplomacy is letting other people know that you recognise them… when people feel as if they’re known and understood and seen, then they’re more open to your perspectives as well.”
A key part of the former US president’s message was that the older generation needed to allow younger people to facilitate more diversity, collaboration and purpose-driven practices.
“The good news is the generation behind us is more worldly, more sophisticated, and more sensitive than we are,” said Obama.
“They are not afraid of difference or change. The politics of looking backwards and erecting walls is a politics that they fundamentally reject… Young people need to get involved in building institutions that are receptive to change.”
Nassetta thanked Obama – who reminded the audience that governments are looking for ways to grow economies now more than ever – for being a great supporter of the travel and tourism industry and asked how those in the room could extend the sector’s influence.
Obama added climate change was “the defining issue of our time” and that we all “have to be concerned about climate change because even if we in rich countries can adapt to manage it, there are hundreds that can’t”.
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