Jamaica’s minister of tourism has called for the creation of a regional disaster response centre in the Caribbean following the devastating hurricanes in the region this year.
Edmund Bartlett told the 2017 International Travel Crisis Management Summit (ITCMS) in London that all regions reliant on tourism must build capacity so they can react quickly in a crisis.
In an unprecedented hurricane season this year, the Caribbean suffered two successive category-five hurricanes that brought devastation to many islands and left an estimated $317 billion of damage.
Bartlett said: “In our case we had something of a phenomenon this year. Never before have we been in a situation where we have had two category-five hurricanes within days of each other.
“The greatest challenge is how we coordinate a quicker response that makes it possible for us to recover, and recover faster.
“Mobilising resources within a diverse geographical area such as the Caribbean and having a single coordinated entity that can respond quickly is the challenge.”
Bartlett said one thing he would like to see come from bringing the trade together at summits like ITCMS is response centres to pool resources and coordinate the public and private response.
“I want a central coordination and resilience centre within the Caribbean to deal with matters like this, to build capacity to enable a quick response,” he said.
Bartlett added that all regions of the planet should have such centres to encourage collaboration and bring in expertise in areas that are lacking, as well as overseeing media communications.
He praised how quickly private partners like cruise lines, hotel groups and airlines responded as well as nations such as the UK, but said the impact was “too dispersed and thinly spread”.
Lee Miles, Bournemouth University dean of crisis and disaster management, said the travel sector must understand how governmental agencies are organised and their strengths and weaknesses.
But he also said public bodies could do more to benefit from disaster resilience plans already in place in private organisations such as hotels, airlines and airports.
“Organisations need to understand what are the single points of failure in particular parts of the world and where travel and tourism expertise can be drawn in,” he said.
“In many parts of the world one of the challenges is most expertise in travel and tourism is local. In a disaster the first people to be affected are local, and the last people to leave are local.
“You need to engage both top-down and bottom-up with communities. That means understanding different cultures. There are different styles of disaster management.”
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