Speaking to the nearly 200 delegates attending the Tourism Resilience Summit of the Americas, Jamaica Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, challenged them to commit to finding common solutions to tourism resilience through synergies to reduce the risks and diminish the threats to the tourism industry.
The Prime Minister was giving the keynote address at the inaugural summit today (September 13) at the University of the West Indies’ Regional Headquarters, Mona.
Noting that the Caribbean and the Americas remain the most tourism-dependent region in the world, the Prime Minister said that despite favourable visitor statistics the tourism industry remains one of the most vulnerable industries. “Tourism is vulnerable not only to natural disasters but also to man-made disasters as well as a series of other external shocks. Some of the main threats to the tourism sector include climate change, epidemics and pandemics, cybercrimes, political instability and terrorism,” he said.
He said that in light of these threats he was pleased to endorse the establishment of a Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre to be housed at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus which is paramount to ensuring agile, coordinated and robust decision making, leading to focused and strategic implementation.
Prime Minister Holness reiterated the need for “building our adaptive capacity as we recognize that tourists have the greatest adaptive capacity based on their money, perceptions, knowledge and time and will therefore choose to shift their timing and destinations as a result of the information they possess. We must embrace the opportunity to show leadership in coherent policies so that we can overcome constraints and seize opportunities.”
In his welcome, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who is the founder of the Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, said, “This is an exciting time for Jamaica and the tourism sector and I believe that the steps we are taking here today will help to shape the future of resilience building in the region.”
He added, “We live in a world of increasing transnational risks, systemic vulnerabilities, and environmental challenges. However, acknowledging that these disruptions is no longer enough if we are to ensure a resilient sector. In fact this is simply the first phase to a larger strategic action plan.”
The Tourism Minister noted that building and bridging resilience among our stakeholders through innovative strategies, training and capacity building; and communicating resilience are the critical next steps to responding to these disruptions.
“I believe that these initiatives will allow us to become innovative and through this innovation will not just adapt but thrive in the onset of these global disruptions,” he added.
Under the theme of “Tourism Resilience through Global Synergies”, the summit forms part of the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to build resilience in a world that is hyper-connected and, as such, is more susceptible to events that disrupt tourism, such as climate change, epidemics and pandemics, terrorism and cybercrime and natural disasters.
Headline speakers on climate challenges and crisis management include Professor Lee Miles, Disaster Management Centre, Bournemouth University, UK; Professor Aldrie Henry-Lee, Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) and Dr Barbara Carby, Director of Disaster Risk Reduction Centre at the University of the West Indies.
Other discussants are former United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, Dr Taleb Rifai; Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce, Isabel Hill; and former UNWTO Executive Director Carlos Vogeler.
The summit is a precursor to the official 2019 launch of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre which was one of the major outcomes of last November’s UNWTO Global Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Montego Bay. Its mission is to carry out policy-relevant research and analysis on destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions or crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods globally.