Brazil, India and China (BRIC without Russia) are poised to fuel an explosion in international tourism in the coming years, showering money and jobs on countries ready for it, and trouble for those that aren't, industry leaders say.
With an estimated two billion new middle class consumers expected to come into the markets from those emerging powerhouses over the next two decades, the travel industry sees a potential gold rush ahead.
"The growth of China outbound travel is moving at a huge pace -- it is about 20 per cent increase every year. And the number of outbound Chinese travelers hit 58 million last year," said David Scowsill, CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council, an industry promotion group.
"And if you look ahead, (with about) 1.6 billion coming out of China and India, they are a huge amount of people coming in with money to burn," he told reporters.
The impact of that coming wave is a top topic at a three-day global travel and tourism summit that opens here yesterday, drawing CEOs from many of the world's largest travel companies and top tourism officials.
The US is sending Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Valerie Jarret, a top advisor to President Barack Obama. Mexico's President Fernando Calderon is the guest of honour.
Barriers to travel, technological innovation and change, body blows to tourism in quake-struck Japan and the turbulent Middle East also are on the agenda here.
But organisers say they want to get government officials and industry leaders thinking about what the arrival of the Chinese, Brazilians, Indians and others from newly affluent countries will mean for their national economies and the international travel business.
"We'll ask the attendees whether they are ready to absorb that level of growth," said Scowsill.
"Are governments ready with infrastructure build? Are private investors ready to put the investment in, and generally speaking are we ready to absorb that level of growth?"
Roger Dow, of the US Travel Association, calls the conflict between the projected surge in demand and lagging infrastructure "a real chicken and egg."
"As we build this travel, which will happen, we'll also have