Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Disaster risk management tools created for tourism stakeholders

Published:Tuesday | June 14, 2022 | 12:07 AM
Tourists enjoy the public beach in Varadero, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.
Tourists enjoy the public beach in Varadero, Cuba, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.

The Ministry of Tourism has developed a comprehensive suite of tools designed to bolster the sector’s resilience and safeguard it against disruptions such as weather-related events, among other crises.

These tools include a disaster risk management plan template and guidelines, a business continuity plan template and guidebook, and a national destination assurance framework and strategy.

They are intended to provide clear guidance to the management and staff of tourism entities on the basic infrastructure and requisite operating procedures to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

The business continuity plan’s development has been complemented by the training and certification of several representatives of allied state agencies who will be tasked with engaging industry stakeholders and guiding the implementation of the document’s guidelines.

The tools were developed using resources pulled from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), and several municipal corporations.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett made presentations to two of the industry’s representatives, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Executive Director Camille Needham and Association of Jamaican Attractions Limited President Marilyn Burrowes.

The presentations were made on Friday, June 10, during a ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, where the participants in the training also received their certificates.

Bartlett, in his remarks, said the Caribbean has been severely affected by global disruptions, particularly weather-related events, in recent years.

He noted that the 2017 hurricane season was arguably one of the most intensive the region experienced in a century, having recorded a significant number of weather systems that claimed over 3,000 lives.

Additionally, the minister said over the period since then, “we lost some $375 billion of physical assets and nearly five million people were affected across the region. In Cuba, alone, over two million people that were affected”.

He pointed out, however, that Jamaica had been spared much of the resulting dislocation and losses.

Bartlett cautioned, however, that the 2022 tropical Atlantic Hurricane Season is expected to be quite active, adding that “already, we have had named storms and we are likely to have more”.

“We are seeing some other things happening, like the persistence of the Sahara Dust, that just might be a mitigating factor. So to prepare ourselves to continue to build our capacity to be able to respond well, is critical,” he emphasised.

Consequently, Bartlett said the provisions facilitated under the ministry’s disaster risk management initiative would be “very valuable as we hone our skills and improve our tools to help to manage and to mitigate this whole situation”.

Needham, in her remarks, commended the ministry and its partners for developing the tools, which she described as “critical”.

She said that the JHTA was cognisant of the importance of resilience and sustainability as a “strategic priority for our industry” while noting that tourism was “highly dependent” on natural resources and climate-based activities.

“But while they contribute to the attractiveness of our destination, their vulnerability to shocks and disruptions has the ability to disrupt our destination’s resilience, sustainability, and ultimately, our competitiveness,” Needham pointed out.

Consequently, she said tourism risk management “is critical for our analysis, assessment, treatment, and monitoring of the risks we face from season to season, year to year”.

Against this background, Needham gave the assurance that the JHTA “is fully committed to a sectoral approach to issues like the management of natural and anthropogenic hazards and climate change and their impacts”.

Acting Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Richard Thompson also commended the tourism ministry and its stakeholder partners for the extensive work being done “to ensure that our tourism product remains viable”.

“We are building on our economic resources and … our sustainability so that we can increase livelihoods in our country and grow our wider economy,” he added.