Covid-19 has underlined the economic, political and social importance of tourism across the globe, according to the founder of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.

Minister of tourism for Jamaica, Edmund Bartlett, told a GTRCMC board meeting that the centre continues to spread its influence globally having opened its first satellite centre in Kenya.

It is also continuing work on a global resilience barometer by which companies can measure their preparedness for future crises and working to establish travel corridors.

The centre also plans to influence the global Covid vaccine roll-out strategy with an online forum planned for January at which key health sector and travel industry leaders will speak.

Bartlett said the centre and the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council are helping destinations globally to identify disruptions and manage them so they can thrive afterwards.

He said this seems like a tall order in the current circumstances, but it is one that can be achieved because “man’s job on earth is to survive…and to be prosperous”.

Bartlett added: “If ever there was a time to reference the importance of tourism and it’s social, economic and political impact on the world that we inhabit, that time is now.

“We have witnessed how tourism has taken centre stage as a sector for countries to keep their heads above the water.

“Covid has underscored the importance of tourism by showing us how dangerous its absence is and therefore how important its presence is.”

He added: “We should commit to fight against unpreparedness if we are to overcome the daunting times that the Covid virus has delivered.

“We must rise to the level of agility that it requires, we must find the approaches and commit ourselves to the path of adaptation, innovation and resilience

“We are, as a sector, naturally resilient, but what we need to do is activate that resilience in order to preserve the sector’s growth and transition into the next stage.”

Bartlett said one of the lessons of the pandemic is that the sector and governments need information to make informed decisions to enable tourism to remain strong economically.

And he said it is vital that knowledge is shared and stakeholders in the sector remain engaged and connected if they are going to survive the pandemic.

“We are all able to appreciate the role of tourism. All over the globe it’s an asset worth fighting for, an asset worth dedicating time and resource to preserve,” he said.

During the pandemic the first GTRCMC satellite in Kenya was officially opened at the University of Kenyatta, and it is now working on 40 projects.

It is in the process of appointing a board of directors and plans for similar satellite centres are progressing in Nepal and Malta.

Meanwhile, “aggressive” efforts to scale the GTRCMC are seeing the Middle East, South America, Oceania, South Africa and mainland Europe earmarked for further centres.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies and a GTRCMC board member, said being prepared had allowed the Caribbean to cope well with Covid.

“Before it came to the Caribbean we knew all there was to know about Covid-19. We put together a taskforce to prepare the Caribbean for Covid-19,” he said.

“In fact, the Caribbean is one of the best case studies around the world in how to manage Covid-19 in terms of infection rates and death rates.

“We have worked to make sure that the policies are accurate and well implemented and the tourism industry is on the cusp of opening its borders in a responsible and scientific way.

“We are in a pretty good place. We are tightening our relationships to make sure that this industry gets all the support it needs from the higher education and research network.”

GTRCMC executive director Professor Lloyd Waller said the centre’s focus for the last year had been on Covid mitigation and recovery.

This has looked at many aspects of the impact of Covid, from jobs and employees in the travel and tourism sector on the ground and the geopolitical aftermath of the pandemic.

A “Know The Facts” project sought to combat misinformation and misunderstanding about the virus among frontline workers through a social awareness campaign.

Waller said the global resilience barometer will measure the readiness of countries for future crises including health, political, climate, cyber and terrorism.

“We think this is one of our flagship programmes. It will have global implications for how the world deal with the tourism sector,” he said.