Stakeholder collaboration key to recovery from COVID-19 in the Caribbean, says tourism minister Bartlett

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Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, speaking during a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank on Friday, December 11, 2020 [Photo: Mark Bell]

By Caribbean News Global contributor

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Regional and global multi-stakeholder policy collaboration is key in ensuring the Caribbean’s full recovery from the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, and reported in the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) daily news.

According to Bartlett “COVID-19 has not only wreaked havoc on Caribbean economies but has brought tourism to a point where “nothing will, probably, ever be the same again. We have to be smart and put our collective minds together to tackle this common enemy and prepare ourselves for that post-COVID-19 era,” he emphasized, “the economic fallout for tourism in 2020, consequent on the pandemic, is projected to range between US$910 billion and US$1.2 trillion. Besides, 100 – 120 million direct jobs are at risk as a result of international travel restrictions and reduced global demand.”

“The travel and tourism sector contributed nearly US$59 billion to the gross domestic product of the Caribbean in 2019. On average, the tourism industry directly contributes up to about 33 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and over 52 percent of export receipts,” he added. Tourism accounts for 54 percent of GDP in Antigua and Barbuda, 42 percent in Belize, 41 percent in Barbados, 38 percent in Dominica, and 34 percent in Jamaica.

“The industry provides direct jobs for 413,000 workers in the Caribbean, representing 18.1 percent of total employment. When we factor indirect and induced employment, this estimate could rise to 43.1 percent with a distribution skewed upward in tourism-dependent Eastern Caribbean countries,” the minister said.

“Caribbean tourism is expected to contract by 20-30 percent this year, with tourist arrivals dropping by 75 percent in the last three quarters of 2020. This contraction . . . is sharply slowing economic activity in the Caribbean with growth projected to [decline] by 6.2 percent in 2020.” Bartlett indicated that tourism’s recovery will depend on “how and when borders are opened across the world”.

Against this background, Bartlett advised that the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC), tasked with leading the Caribbean’s COVID-19 recovery effort, will continue to strengthen collaboration with its network of local, regional and international partners, to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on destinations, and identify effective strategies for their recovery.

Meanwhile, Jamaica has secured just over 860,000 airline seats for the 2020 – 2021 winter season, which begins December 15.

“The good news is that our international [airline] partners retained their deep, strong and abiding confidence in Jamaica,” the minister added “would be a nice beginning to restore the growth levels that the [tourism] industry had over the years”.

Against this background, Bartlett urged tourism industry stakeholders to maintain the integrity of the established COVID-19 health and safety protocols. And that all entities within the sector will be revisited by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) to ensure compliance.

“We are going to recheck everybody to revalidate the whole COVID compliance arrangement that we have put in place. Vigilance is the name of the game, eternal vigilance is what’s going to help to keep and save us from this virus overwhelming us,” minister Bartlett said.

– With files from Garwin Davis and Shanna K. Salmon of Jamaica Information Service (JIS)

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