Some 40 international speakers are down to participate in next month’s inaugural Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) conference in Jamaica.
Attendees will assemble from all corners of the globe with one goal in mind: improving the state of tourism, not just in the Caribbean but worldwide. Several leaders in regional tourism have already indicated their participation in the conference with tourism back on track and most of the matching or in some cases exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
The three-day conference will be held at the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Regional Headquarters in St Andrew from February 15 to 17. Natural disasters, financial and workforce issues, crime and political instability are just some of the issues that the GTRCMC plans to discuss when it convenes its inaugural conference.
Conference will be streamed
While in-person attendance is limited to 200, the conference will be streamed online. Organisers hope the event will draw attendees not just from the tourism sector but also heads of government, academics and investors, among others.
So far representatives and attendees from countries including Jamaica, Grenada and the Bahamas are scheduled to speak, as are seven government representatives from African nations and others from Saudi Arabia and Jordan discussing a variety of subjects.
Commenting on the importance of tourism in the region, Caymanian Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan remarks, “we are all dependent on tourism for economic well-being because it’s a global industry. It operates in such a dynamic environment. There are so many interconnected sectors that are vulnerable to negative impacts.”
Restoring the workforce
The restoration of the tourism workforce figures to be at the top of the agenda for many attendees. Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who co-founded the organisation in 2018 and serves as its co-chair explains that ”when the pandemic struck, 72 million people lost their jobs in the tourism sector, and only 18 per cent to 20 per cent have returned. We need to know exactly why they haven’t come back”.
Continuing, Minister Bartlett noted, “we need the missing links to an environment that is conducive to the highest level of productivity and production and stability, and we need to make that change so that the recovery is strong and powerful as to bring the workers around.”
According to Statista, the top three countries whose economies relied the most on travel and tourism in the Caribbean in 2021 were Antigua and Barbuda (61 per cent), Aruba (59.6 per cent) and St Lucia (48.6 per cent).
For Bartlett, “there’s a need for a convergence in the Caribbean because we are the most tourism-dependent area on Earth,” explaining that the islands present a more powerful force for tourism when working together and acting as one.
The conference dates in line with a move to designate February 17 as Global Tourism Resilience Day, a move that tourism-minded groups including the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association have called on to become observed worldwide after hurricanes Ian and Fiona ravaged portions of the Caribbean. In the past, Bartlett also proposed a Global Resilience Fund to help destinations deemed highly vulnerable to tourism disruptions and that don’t have the financial resources for preparation or recovery.