Technology to play a key role in reviving Caribbean tourism — Minister BartlettFriday, July 31, 2020
BY KELLARAY MILES
Among a raft of measures being explored for the revival of the Caribbean's tourism industry after being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, some players have said that technology must be utilised as an aid in directing the sector's recovery.
Speaking on Tuesday at this month's staging of the Caribbean Economic Forum (CEF), Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister and chair of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Regional Commission for the Americas (CAM), said that in fast-tracking the recovery process, the sector should seek to make use of all available technological applications.
“Technology has to play a key role and the level of connectivity that it will enable us to have is going to be absolutely mind-boggling.
“We have used technology in Jamaica to build value particularly for our small and medium enterprises and some of our street food vendors. We have a little man called the 'pudding man' in Priory, St Ann, and his pudding is all over the world now. By way of digital presentations that we've made—his value has been enormous, he makes a lot of money now and people are buying the experience even before they come,” he said.
The minister said that with the Caribbean being a renowned culinary destination with diverse menu offerings, “we can make a big value there and use technology to create an effect.”
President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Patricia Affonso-Dass, also endorsed the use of technology in driving the region's tourism activities, proposing that it will bring about a host of other opportunities, especially in promoting safety.
“When you look at all the things we can do and are looking at as we seek to make the customer experience safer and easier, things like QR codes for menus — which are now standard in many of our hotels and restaurants— contact-less check-ins and technology in training are just some of the ways in which technology is used to supplement, support and enhance the guest experience and ensure that it is as safe as it can be,” she said.
She further said that in using the different digital mediums to push the sector forward, the industry could begin to see positive results by next year.
“I'm very optimistic! Tourism is exceedingly resilient, I think that we have an amazing product, we have managed and contained [the pandemic] extremely well. We, however, need consistency of message, flexibility in how we deal with our customers and we need to continue doing those things that have seen us successful up until this point. I'm looking for a strong 2021 and a positive winter,” she said.
OTHER RECOVERY STRATEGIES
Bartlett, in outlining some of the other initiatives geared at resetting tourism, said that the development of human resources is also to be a vital part of the rebuilding process.
He noted: “We have to build human capacity, we have to train and build the skill sets of our people to be able to be agile, adaptable and to pivot and be able to add value at every step of the way to the experiences provided.”
He pointed to multi-destination tourism as another option that must be further explored in the post-COVID period. “The Caribbean as individual units are not going to be as attractive as when they look at us together with the wonderful values that we all have combined,” he said whilst mentioning that the creation of a single Caribbean airspace and passport/visa were critical areas that needed to be developed if we were to provide true regional access.
“These are far-reaching initiatives that we have to look at for the way forward,” he stated.
The minister, however, said that despite the current setbacks — the Caribbean remains the most exciting tourism destination on Earth, which if proper collaborative efforts are undertaken, could become the centrepiece of tourism for the future.
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