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I wrote last week that I was in the beautiful city of Lucerne and about my extraordinary meal at Focus in Vitznau by Nenad Mlinarevic. It was the perfect appetizer for the main event, the World Tourism Conference, where I was a keynote speaker and was asked to address the topic of “irresistible.”

Tourism is a vitally important business to most economies in the world. In 2014 Travel & Tourism generated US$7.6 trillion (10% of global GDP) and 277 million jobs (1 in 11 jobs) in the global economy. Its growth of 3.6% was faster than the wider economy and out-performed growth in the majority of leading sectors in 2014. More than 60% of all air travel is tourism related.

My message was that the keyword for the tourism industry in 2015 is not scenery, experience, adventure, millennial, disruption, technology – but people.

“Irresistibility is not about who has the highest Alps or whitest beaches, nor the most personal data or smartest tech; all are commodities, all replicable in one way or other.

“Irresistibility is about the living force that defines us, about the power and mystery of human emotion and storytelling, about people being understood, touched, involved and inspired by other people. How many times have you heard the story, “the hiking was amazing, the shopping was unique, but the people…they were so helpful and friendly…”

Tourism is an industry that runs on talent, and the 277 million people employed – whether at airport check-in, by-the-pool service, off-the-bungy moment of truth, on the jet-boat – all have major responsibility for delivering personal fulfilment in the chain of interactions.

And not only is the People element critical in the industry itself, it is crucial in the national welcome. In a workshop I co-hosted with Oxford economist xxx addressing the issue of currency fluctuations which is currently pressuring the Swiss tourism industry (an appreciated franc being the issue), I said that the Swiss has to get off the neutral horse and become roundly hospitable.

Generosity is a free resource, doesn’t require any capital investment, just a national attitude shift. If the Swiss tourism industry wants to ride out the currency problem that is inducing many travellers to consider Moscow as a cheaper alternative because of the depreciated ruble, they just have to work on being nicer. Ditch the reserve, open the arms, up the enthusiasm, put on a smile. Won’t cost a franc. We’ll see.

There are lessons for all countries in this, perhaps try starting with the competence and attitude of border control agents who regularly set back national perceptions with their operating ethos of ‘frosty.’ Understandable at a certain level, but when someone is obviously a tourist or an experienced traveller, try a welcome as well as the once-over.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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