As the tourism industry struggles to return to some semblance of normality, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett is reiterating an urgent call for the establishment of a Global Tourism Resilience Fund.
A move he said was previously backed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which called for “higher political and budgetary prioritisation of pandemics to promote human security” in the same way that other national security risks are prioritised.
“The fund would especially target destinations that are recognised as facing high vulnerability but have insufficient financial capacity to prepare for and recover quickly from disruptions,” he explained.
His call comes three years after he warned that global tourism interests should seriously take the threat of pandemics and epidemics as global security issues and a future global shock, and during the onset of the worst catastrophic event since the Great Depression of 1929 – COVID-19.
Revealing some alarming statistics, bolstering his plea, the tourism minister, who also chairs the Global Tourism Resilience Centre at The University of the West Indies, Mona, pointed out that the number of new diseases per decade has increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years, and since 1980, the number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled.
Bartlett revealed that 174 million jobs are now at risk, while the total economic impact is expected to exceed over one trillion dollars.
All is not lost, and he is, however, optimistic that international tourism is one of the most resilient segments of the global economy.
“While the impact of the pandemic will likely carry into 2021, most global destinations have been finding ways to adapt and have developed recovery plans to manage the reopening of their tourism industries.”
The pace of recovery, however, continues to vary from country to country, he stated, adding that fortunately, the industry was now in a position to identify some of the success factors for reasonably paced recovery of the tourism sector based on the experiences of specific countries.
“Critically, effective leadership with the industry has been central to making tactical adjustments to business operations in the short term to ensure adaptability during the crisis and survival beyond,” he told stakeholders during a UNWTO forum recently.
In the case of Jamaica, the tourism minister has announced the establishment of two working teams which have been mandated to support the ministry’s reopening plans for cruise and stopover tourism.
The new teams will report to the ministry’s Tourism Recovery Task Force, made up of public-private sector collaboration, and mandated to provide what Bartlett describes as a “realistic view of the sector’s baseline or starting position”.
Under its remit, develop scenarios for multiple versions of the future and establish the strategic posture for the sector and “a broad direction of the journey back to growth” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bartlett told UNWTO officials that his ministry has also been working to develop standards aimed at boosting Jamaica’s destination security, as international tourists are now paying closer attention to their health and safety when planning their itineraries.
“We have recognised that destinations responding to these needs are also likely to attract greater shares of the dwindling international tourist market during this period, and ultimately will recover faster,” he said.
He also cited critically effective leadership within the industry as being central to the making of tactical adjustments to business operations in the short term, which he said will ensure adaptability during the COVID-19 crisis and survival beyond.
Warning that a “haphazard and laissez-faire approach will not ensure timely recovery”, Bartlett said that instead, the “recovery process has to be carefully-managed”, with planning and strategising being crucial success factors of recovery.