Caribbean nations cannot afford to act in isolation - Bartlett
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Caribbean islands can no longer afford to act in isolation and need to come together to fully maximise the benefits from tourism.
He noted that to continue with the status quo or the "every man for himself" approach will forever doom the region to second-tier status and where Caribbean leaders would have squandered a golden opportunity to get their economies on track.
It is against this background that the minister noted that the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group conference on 'Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism' at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, November 27-29, will be one of the most important tourism events the region will ever experience.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday at the Consulate General of Jamaica during Caribbean Week in New York, Bartlett added that given the Caribbean's overall dependency on tourism, it was important that the UNWTO conference provide solutions on how the Caribbean can better leverage the industry.
"As we prepare to host this conference, the importance of tourism, particularly to the Caribbean region, cannot be overemphasised. In the Caribbean, it's estimated that tourism contributes more than US$27 billion to the regional economy," Bartlett told reporters.
"Tourism is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean and also the sector receiving the most foreign direct investment. The region has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of gross domestic product derived from tourism than any other region in the world. It is estimated that one in every four persons is employed by tourism-related activities, and the sector accounts for 41 per cent of total exports and services in the Caribbean and 31 per cent of all gross domestic product."
Bartlett further pointed out that as a region, the Caribbean must strive to grow not only its current market share, but "what we do with these increased arrivals is a discussion to be had.
"And so the question we must ask ourselves is, how do we increase our market share while addressing the environmental demands that increased visitor traffic places on our region and ensure that tourism's outflows benefit Caribbean residents?" he added.
"Just as we have done with the global aspect, we have included the Caribbean themes within the Call for Papers which cover tourism and sustainability, where the threats, risks and challenges will be discussed; the strengthening of the human capital and human capital trends; the tourism value chain linkages, and technology and innovation."
Bartlett further explained that the UNWTO conference programme, though global in nature, is highly significant to the Caribbean, and therefore, "we felt that we should incorporate a programme specific to the Caribbean and some of the issues we grapple with.
"This programme will take place on the first day of the conference on November 27," he declared. "Tourism is no longer tourism by chance, as in days gone by; the concept of tourism by study is quickly being adopted by policymakers, tour operators, hotels, restaurants, etc."