07 FEB 2019: Many destinations in the Caribbean by their very nature get lathered and rinsed repeatedly by seasonal storms and, in worst-case scenarios, hurricanes. And though islands sometimes ultimately come out of the process with a shiny new look after recovery and rebuilding, the legacies of death, destruction and cost are a far cry from simply getting a good shampoo.  

To that end, world leaders, parliamentarians and academics from around the world convened in Montego Bay, Jamaica, recently to commemorate the opening of The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM) – a first-of-its-kind tourism resource 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.

The Centre was fittingly unveiled by Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, on Jan. 30 at the 2019 Caribbean Tourism Marketplace at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, where the GTRCM was the talk of the annual tourism conference.

“Of all the major industries globally, none face greater exposure to disruptions as the tourism industry, but it also has proven again and again that it has the greatest capacity for recovery,” said Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness. He added, “I am very pleased that Jamaica is leading this initiative and that, in the spirit of true collaboration and partnership, tourism in all nations will benefit from the strategic solutions emerging from the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.”

With more than 1.4 billion overnight visitors travelling internationally in 2018, 30 million of them in the Caribbean alone, minister Bartlett said, “We must be proactive by creating the capacity to deal with global challenges facing our world today, particularly those related to safety and security. The GTRCM will focus heavily on the critical elements that will make Jamaica and the Caribbean among the safest destinations in the world.”

Led by Jamaica and its neighboring Caribbean nations, the Centre – based out of the University of the West Indies (Mona) – will also draw expertise from around the world, focusing on four core areas of challenge:

• Climate change and disaster management;

• Security and cybersecurity;

• Entrepreneurial management and data analytics; and

• Pandemic and epidemic management.

“The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre that is being unveiled today is about travel and tourism,” said Centre co-chair, Dr. Taleb Rifai. “But first and foremost,” continued the former Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, “The Centre is really about people, and keeping them safe. We believe that Jamaica, our friends in the Caribbean, and the rest of the world will benefit from the research, best practices and benchmarks that will emerge from this important effort.”

To date, partnerships have been formalized with World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the Pacific Asia Travel Association, The Travel Corporation, the Jamaica National Group, Mediterranean Tourism from Malta, Pacific Tourism Authority in Bangkok, the Tourism International Conference of Mauritius, the Crisis Management and Resilience Council in London, and Global Rescue, among others.

Not surprisingly the GTRCM received a ringing endorsement from the Caribbean Tourism Organization, whose chair Dominic Fedee stressed the challenges the Caribbean region faces in recovering from natural disasters and the lasting effects of such adversities.

The resilience centre, he said, will play a hugely important role in helping the region to recover from such crises, which the World Bank has found impact gross domestic product in developing states at a rate 20 times higher than in industrialised nations, causing greater disruption and severe consequences for vulnerable members of society.

“A lot has been said about the environmental challenges that hurricanes present, but they are perhaps the single largest threats to our economies,” said Fedee. “A large portion of the debt on the books of member countries is due to borrowing to rebuild infrastructure ravaged by storms and hurricanes. This has resulted in a high debt-to-GDP ratio in various member countries and consequently a serious constraint to growth.”

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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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