Tourism sector resilience and the impact of climate change will be at the top of the agenda at two key international conferences due to take place this October and November.
Next month the second Tourism Resilience Summit of the Americas will take place in Jamaica, co-hosted by the University of the West Indies and the pioneering new Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.
The following month will see the fourth annual Global Resilience Summit take place in London during the week of annual trade show World Travel Market.
Ahead of both events Lee Hayhurst spoke to His Excellency Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica, who co-chairs the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council and was the driving force behind the setting up of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.
“People will never travel less, because the world has been built on travel. We have been migratory people from day one and nations have been built on migration.”
This was the message from His Excellency Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica, when asked how increasing concern about climate change may impact travel.
He was speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly last week during an annual trade show promoting the Caribbean destination to British agents and operators.
A great believer in the ingenuity of mankind to find ways to address problems, Bartlett is optimistic the industry can rise to the challenges that travel and tourism faces.
“Technology is enhancing our capacity and there’s going to be more innovation and creativity,” he says. “The ingenuity of man is going to constantly keep us ahead.
“This earth, as we know it, belongs to man. Our job is to be a great custodian, to preserve this amazing planet. Our job is to find ways and means of sustaining planet Earth.
“That process of adding value to our lives and our environment is what innovation is all about. If man continues to innovate then travel will always be with us.
“What has happened is that management of how we travel has become more complicated and that is a challenge for all of us.
“Some people get carried away by saying travel should cease or there should be a reduction. What there needs to be is a better appreciation of how to manage travel.”
In September, the sustainability of the travel industry was given a royal focus when the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, launched new global partnership Travalyst.
Working initially with Skyscanner, Ctrip, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Visa, Travalyst aims to be a rallying point for the industry to foster best practice to ensure travel continues to provide vital support for local communities while not harming fragile eco-systems.
Bartlett said the stated aims of Travalyst mirror that of the work on resilience he is involved in with both with the new centre, which has already spawned regional bases in Asia and Africa, and its sister organisation the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council.
“We are excited by the prospect of Travalyst becoming a global driving force to encourage and facilitate action within the tourism space,” he says.
“We think it will be a great corollary to what the Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre is doing in terms of building the capacity to understand global disruption.
“We commend what Prince Harry has set out to do and wish him all the best with this ambitious initiative.
“He is just the sort of figurehead who will resonate in Jamaica due to his connection with the Commonwealth, as well as his friendship with Usain Bolt.”
Next month’s Tourism Resilience Summit of the Americas will bring together experts from the worlds of academia and travel to discuss some of the pressing issues that climate change is having on tourism in the region.
As well as looking at how destinations recover from major natural disasters, like the recent Hurricane Dorian that caused widespread damage in the Bahamas, it will also focus on how these events can be tracked and predicted so their impact can be mitigated.
The day-and-a-half conference will also focus on specific issues like the recent huge blooms of Sargassum algae in the Atlantic which originate in the rivers of the Amazon and can grow to the size of Australia and have affected coastal regions in the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida.
Bartlett said the event will be a chance for delegates to see for themselves the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre facility that is currently nearing completion at the University of the West Indies.
A planned official opening during the summit has had to be put back due to the building work being delayed by poor weather, but Bartlett said he expects it to be completed in November.
The centre has four aims including to compile a compendium of best practice for destination recovery following a crisis, to launch an academic journal, and to develop a barometer for travel and tourism resilience by which countries can benchmark themselves.
The fourth aim is to establish an academic chair based at the centre in Kingston, Jamaica, to develop learning, research and courses for students doing post-graduate studies in travel, tourism and resilience planning.
Bartlett said the centre will also act as a hub where key stakeholders from the private and public sectors can meet and collaborate on how to build destinations’ resilience.
“All of what we do at the Resilience Centre is a mix of private and public. One has to find a framework in which the public sector is provided access to that environment to enable the creative energies of the private sector to unleash all their assets and values to drive growth and sustainable development.”
Bartlett praised the impressive initial response to the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian on parts of the Bahamas which he said underlined how destinations and international responders are learning how to react.
After the recent United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly in Russia, Bartlett announced the resilience centre and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association is to spend $100,000 to support economies reliant on tourism in the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
The funding will go towards a study of how resilient Caribbean destinations and the Bahamas are and in what areas they should diversify and build capacity to decrease their vulnerabilities.
“After these sorts of disasters, the problem is that economies have is they are put back 20 years. Take our own experience in the Caribbean. Barbuda was total obliterated by Hurricane Irma. To build it back and get meaningful growth is going to take a lifetime.
“Haiti is the best example of how difficult it is to recover. Just recovering is a hell of a challenge, never mind getting back to growth. Where does your growth come from when you’ve been put back 20 years?
“The Bahamas, perhaps, had a better time in terms of the immediate response. The US was very forthcoming and some cruiselines and tourist associations have been very strong in their responses.
“The bigger issue has to do with the technical and investment partners who need to come in now to do the physical rebuilding. But, more importantly, the collective empathy of people around the world has been far more apparent and the response we are getting is good.”
For Bartlett the vital work of the resilience council, supporting the resilience centre and its regional satellites either already opened or planned in Nepal, Nairobi, Morocco, Japan, Hong Kong and Bangkok, is to increase awareness of the threats to travel and tourism and a shared understanding of how to mitigate them.
“As long as we travel we have vulnerabilities and these have to be addressed and this is why we have a need for creative thinking and for innovation to determine what are best practices. How do we deal with our vulnerabilities?
“We need to understand better what’s happening in our own specific environment. Then there is the anticipation of disruption and what’s on the horizon. How do we act to mitigate the possible impact of those things?
“In the case of climate change is it disrupting the activities and the world around us as we know it. How do we create the sort of environmental and social protections against this?
“The other angle is how do we act to reduce the acceleration of climate change, what kind of action do we need to take to reduce our impact on the climate and even perhaps negate the threat?
“Then, as well as all of this, we could perhaps build out some kind of measure as to how effective your actions are and how climate resilient we are.
“From an analytical point of view to get to know how to use data to develop some kind of measurement of resilience. How helpful would that be to spur action and to enable investment?
“We think that the more people understand what are the present and immediate dangers and how to mitigate them the better the world will be able to sustain itself over time.”
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