Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica has made history by being named chair of the prestigious United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Executive Council.
The country's tourism and entertainment minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill, was elected to serve as chairman for the year 2014-2015, at the just-concluded UNWTO's 20th Session of the General Assembly, held from August 24 to 29, 2013 in Victoria Falls, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This is also the first time that an English-speaking Caribbean country will chair the Executive Council.
Minister McNeill, who was expected back in the country yesterday, was quoted in a media release by the Ministry stating, "This is yet another proud moment for Jamaica, and represents a monumental achievement given the fact that we are a small island state."
He added, "This further concretises our position as a leader in tourism on the international stage and speaks volumes of the far-reaching impact Jamaica continues to have on the other nations of the world."
Over the last two years, Jamaica has held second vice-chair and 1st vice-chair positions, with the organisation, which is the leading international association with the decisive and central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
Jamaica will preside over several important meetings, including the next UNWTO General Assembly, says the Ministry of Tourism.
The development has been welcomed by the president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), who said that by this accomplishment, Jamaica has again distinguished itself on the world stage.
REFLECTS HOW COUNTRY IS VIEWED
"Jamaica is the first English-speaking Caribbean island to assume this mantle, and this outstanding accomplishment reflects the stature and respect that our island enjoys in world leadership circles. It also indicates the high esteem with which our tourism industry is viewed globally," said the association.
According to the local tourism entity, the UNWTO's objective of promoting tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability is one that is clearly aligned with Jamaica's philosophy of facilitating increased collaboration and partnership between the tourism industry, other industries and public sector entities, "to enhance tourism's pivotal role as a driver of economic growth".
The other English-speaking Caribbean countries that are members of the UNWTO are The Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago.
The UNWTO membership includes 156 countries, six territories, two permanent observers and over 400 affiliate members.