Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the Caribbean is focused on building resilience in order to protect the future of tourism, on which so many countries depend.
He said that the threats facing the sector are dynamic and range from environmental issues, such as climate change and global warming, to epidemics and pandemics, terrorism and cybercrime.
“Not only is the Caribbean the most disaster-prone region of the world on account of the fact that most islands are situated within the Atlantic hurricane belt, where storm cells are produced, and also sits along three active seismic fault lines, but it is the most tourism-dependent region in the world,” he noted.
Minister Bartlett was addressing a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery in the United States Virgin Islands on June 3, where he highlighted the importance of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM).
The facility, recently established at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, is the first of its kind dedicated to policy-relevant research and analysis on destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions or crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods globally.
Minister Bartlett said that through the centre, “Jamaica continues to position itself and the wider Caribbean as the new reference point for resilience building, particularly for countries that are highly tourism dependent”.
Minister Bartlett said the most recent economic data indicate that the livelihood of one in every four Caribbean residents is linked to tourism.
He said that the sector contributes to more than 15.2 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), and over 25 per cent of the GDP of more than half of the countries. In the case of the British Virgin Islands, tourism contributes to 98.5 per cent of GDP.
“This underscores the importance of developing strategies for mitigating potential hazards that can destabilise tourism services in the region and cause long-term setback to growth and development,” Mr. Bartlett argued.
He noted the effects of the 2017 hurricane season where the Caribbean lost an estimated 826,100 visitors, compared to pre-hurricane forecasts.
“These visitors would have generated US$741 million and supported 11,005 jobs. Research suggests that recovery to previous levels could take up to four years, in which case the region will miss out on over US$3 billion over this time frame,” he pointed out.
The CGI is the brainchild of former US President Bill Clinton, who is one of the featured speakers at the meeting, which concludes on June 4.
The event brings together global leaders across various sectors to develop new, specific, and measurable plans that advance recovery and promote long-term resiliency across the Caribbean region.