Call for UN to join tourism resilience advocacy
Jamaica launches Global Tourism Resilience Day
A call is being made for the United Nations (UN) to join the global advocacy for increasing the resilience of the world tourism, travel and other related industries to ensure their ability to respond quickly to crises and recover from disasters.
As part of the advocacy effort, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, is calling on the UN to add the recognition of February 17 as Global Tourism Resilience Day to its calendar of observances, starting next year.
Resilience in the tourism and travel sector has been a major talking point since worldwide border closures in the face of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 precipitated a shutdown of the travel trade and tourism activities across the globe. The resulting high levels of unemployment and financial loss to businesses led to widespread economic contraction in countries around the world.
Having suffered significantly from the downturn, with a 10 per cent decline in gross domestic product in 2020, tourism-dependent Jamaica continues to play a lead role in the effort to improve the resilience of tourism and to devise common practices for the management of crises facing the industry. As part of the global advocacy, Bartlett, the co-chair of the Jamaica-based Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC), will later this month launch the first observance of February 17 each year as Global Tourism Resilience Day.
The launch will take place on the day at Expo 2020 Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which has had more than 10 million visitors and at which 108 countries are represented in pavilions.
“The focus will be on the ability of countries to build capacity to respond to international shocks and to be able to predict, with greater certainty, their responses. It will also aid countries in understanding and mitigating the effects of these shocks on their development. But most importantly, it will help them manage and recover quickly afterwards,” Bartlett stated during a press briefing on Thursday.
The GTRCMC co-chair pointed to what he said was the fragmented nature of the travel industry, noting that 90 per cent of the sector constitute small to medium enterprises, the majority of which, according to studies that the statement did not name, are not prepared to respond to crises.
“Destinations must lead. The GTRCMC is tackling that concern in a big way. By launching an annual tribute to resilience and naming a day as such, the centre is bringing the need for the travel industry to focus on preparedness, crisis management, recovery and ongoing resilience to the fore,” he stated.
As part of the Global Tourism Resilience Day observance, the GTRCMC has partnered with the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council and the International Tourism Investment Corporation to host a forum on practical steps to ensure resilience in the tourism industry.
The aim of the forum, it said, is to assist travel entities to prepare, plan and minimise the impact of crises and be able to rebound and recover more quickly.
The theme for the inaugural Global Tourism Resilience Day forum will be ‘Harnessing the Path to Recovery through Resilience and Investment’. At the forum, speakers, including Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, are expected to share key information on the investments which are necessary to ensure resilience in the sector.
Other high-profile speakers expected to join Jamaica in its cause, includes President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta; Spanish government minister Reyes Morato; Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International; and World Travel and Tourism Council CEO Julia Simpson.
The GTRCMC said the global tourism industry has generally been described as resilient because of what is described as “the accumulated wisdom from experiences,” indicating that the sector bounced back quickly after the initial phases of the crisis.
However, Bartlett noted that over the past two years, the pandemic has tested this presumed industry resilience more than any previous disruptive event in modern history, and in the process, forced all destinations, irrespective of size, location and attributes, into survival mode.
“It has also heightened consciousness. The industry cannot afford to be taken off guard again. Instead, it is called upon to urgently adopt a methodological, collaborative and institutional approach towards resilience. Destinations need to build the skills and knowledge for anticipating, preparing, responding, managing and learning from all disruptive events to ensure they are ready for the next event,” he added.
The GTRCMC said it will strive to identify best practices, pinpoint lessons learned, as well as seek out services that assist the industry in building resilience.
“Through the centre and its partners, there will be academic rigour to support the shared knowledge around good practices,” GTRCMC Executive Director Professor Lloyd Waller added.