Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Earth Today | Jamaica to help with travel sector relief after hurricanes

Published:Thursday | October 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

JAMAICA IS to assist its neigbours whose tourism sectors took a hit with the passage of the recent hurricanes, each of which developed into category four and five events at what seemed to some the snap of a finger.

"We are all a part of the regional tourism family, so it is important that we are willing to help each other in times of need. Many of the islands devastated by the hurricanes are heavily dependent on tourism. It is important that we assist in any way possible to help them to rebuild the sector," said Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria bludgeoned islands in the Caribbean and sections of the United States, leaving not only billions of dollars in damage and lives lost, but also fear of what could be the new normal for hurricanes amid a changing climate.

Bartlett was recently in China for the 22nd session of the United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly, where he was appointed coordinator of the newly formed UNWTO Disaster Recovery Working Group for the Affected States in the Caribbean.

"If there are seismic or climatic events which have damaged and ravaged and caused disruption in economic flow as well as the destruction of property and the loss of human lives, that represents a serious moment for us in the region," he noted.

October 12 is to see the membership of the working group convene in Grenada to discuss assistance for tourism-dependent member states impacted by the hurricanes, which appear to reflect the extreme weather events projected, courtesy of a changing climate.

The meeting will be held during the Caribbean Tourism Organisation's biggest tourism gathering in the region, the annual State of the Tourism Industry Conference.

"Coming out of the Grenada meeting, a plan of action will be crafted and site visits will be done. Then, at the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism' at the Montego Bay Convention Centre between November 27 and 29, the action plan will be launched for the restoration of the tourism sector," the ministry revealed in response to queries from The Gleaner.

 

REGION BOOMING

 

Regional tourism reportedly expanded at a higher rate in 2016 than the global average of 3.9 per cent.

"The data for 2016 also indicate that cruise tourism in the region is booming as cruise passenger arrivals grew by an estimated 1.3 per cent, to approximately 26.3 million in 2016," said Osbourne Chin, director of tourism facilitation in the policy and monitoring division.

The tourism industry remains the most vital source of earnings and economic activity for most Caribbean, islands with region-wide tourism revenues estimated at over US$27 billion in 2016, according to information from the ministry.

"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 FDI (foreign direct investment)," the ministry revealed.

"The region has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of GDP derived from tourism than any other region in the world. It is estimated that one in every four persons is employed by the tourism-related activities and the sector accounts for 41 per cent of all exports and services in the Caribbean and 31 per cent of all gross domestic product," it added.

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