The resilience of tourism-dependent countries to issues such as climate change must be central to the travel industry’s growth plans.
That was the message from Jamaica’s tourism minister and co-chair of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) Edmund Bartlett, who has renewed his call for an international relief fund for tourism communities threatened by a wide range of disruptive forces, most notably climate change, but also pandemics, terrorism and war.
While climate change has commanded headlines for decades, with Australia’s bushfire crisis the most immediately visible recent example, Bartlett stressed there were always new threats emerging, such as cybercrime.
“We want to start a global conversation on tourism resilience and crisis management,” Bartlett told TTG.
“Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in the world, accounting for 10% of global employment and an equal percentage of global GDP.
“Several regions have become hugely tourism-dependent, with the Caribbean recognised as the most dependent.
“More than 80 countries now have tourism dependence of 10% or more, so we need to start by recognising the need for this kind of institutional support for less-resourced countries.”
This need has grown hugely in recent years, according to Bartlett.
“When catastrophe is on your doorstep, you realise how important peace is,” he said, citing the impact of the 2010 Haiti earthquake; hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated vast swathes of the Caribbean in September 2017; and Hurricane Dorian last year, which tore through Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands.
Bartlett said basing the GTRCMC at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica’s Kingston would free its efforts from state bureaucracy, and allow it to benefit from the independence of the wider university community, its connections and mission to share ideas.
The centre has already forged partnerships with the University of Nairobi in Kenya and Tribhuvan University in Nepal, while discussions are ongoing with institutions in Nigeria, South Africa, Hong Kong and the UK.
The centre’s board, meanwhile, draws from Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the UK, US, Jordan, Malta and Kenya.
The GTRCMC has broken down resilience into four key strands: health resilience; security resilience, including cybersecurity; climatic and seismic resilience; and entrepreneurial resilience, with different nations contributing their particular expertise.
For example, the Caribbean is leading discussions on climatic resilience, informed by its response to recent major weather events.
Other partners include the Tourism Resilience Council, the International Tourism Investment Council and the World Travel and Tourism Council.
“We will act as a global think tank by sharing information and data, while providing access to specific expertise on particular issues,” said Bartlett.
The relief fund, he said, would be a public-private sector partnership funded by governments and industry, which he acknowledged did raise questions over how funds are distributed, to whom, and on what basis.
“The emphasis will be on tourism-dependent countries or those that are poorly resourced because they are the most vulnerable,” said Bartlett.
“Small and medium enterprises are the very heartbeat of tourism, 80% – particularly in countries where you go for unique experiences usually driven by indigenous people on the wrong end of equity.
“What we are looking at is how to rebalance that asymmetry; we believe tourism has the capacity to level the playing field.”