Greater regional thrust mooted for Caribbean tourism
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett kicked off the much anticipated UNWTO global conference on jobs and inclusive growth with a call for greater partnerships among Caribbean tourism destinations.
“The growth agenda for the Caribbean tourism sector must be people-centered and aligned with broader national economic and social imperatives. It is important that Caribbean states understand that sustainable tourism must mean inclusive growth that will expand economic benefits to local populations; in the process helping to move people’s lives from poverty to prosperity,” said Minister Bartlett in his opening remarks.
Over 1300 persons from 60 countries are participating in the three-day UNWTO, Government of Jamaica, World Bank Group and Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James.
Minister Bartlett said the tourism sector must not only generate prosperity and wealth for large hotel owners and service providers but also help to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the islands; strengthen linkages with other sectors of the economy, particularly the agricultural and manufacturing sectors; strengthen the benefits derived from the industry by local residents and communities; and promote broader participation by all Caribbean nationals.
With “The Future of Caribbean Tourism: Sustainability and Resilience” as the theme of his address, Minister Bartlett said, “The question of sustainability is an even more urgent concern for tourism-dependent small island states, like those in the Caribbean, that face disproportionately greater risks due to their sizes, geographical location and lack of economic diversification.”
He pointed to an international shift from traditional tourism and added, “The Caribbean tourism sector must position itself to tap into these emergent markets that constitute the future of global tourism.”
Minister Bartlett suggested that other means of enhancing the competitiveness of the region’s tourism sector would be “for us to enter into discussions with several airlines and tour companies to discuss the way forward in terms of possibly introducing new locations to their Caribbean itineraries.”
The region must also aggressively target promising markets in South America, Europe, Asia “and even promote more seriously the idea of intra-regional tourism,” said Minister Bartlett. At the same time, the region must also tap into a vibrant Caribbean Diaspora in source markets such as Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom to encourage expatriates to return home more often, he added.
Minister Bartlett also underscored the need to look into the feasibility of multi-destination arrangements that will increase intra-regional tourist flows and promote mutual benefits for more destinations in the region.
“As we explore opportunities in multi-destination tourism, we must also seek regional cooperation in related areas such as aviation and airlift strategies to move seamlessly within the region, visa facilitation and access to each other’s destinations, as well as pre-clearance arrangements,” he posited.
Turning to the conference, which he noted was the first of its kind in the Caribbean, Minister Bartlett described it as a monumental event attracting global policymakers and leaders in tourism from across the world, several international agencies of the United Nations as well as large delegation of local stakeholders.
Over the next three days a wide range of issues related to the resilience and sustainability of global tourism will discussed under the theme “Building Private-Public Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism for Development.”