Bartlett urges regional tourism interests to collaborate to recover from COVID-19Monday, December 14, 2020
BY KIMONE FRANCIS
MINISTER of Tourism Edmund Bartlett is challenging his colleagues in the regional tourisim industry to “do away with” competitiveness in the sector.
According to Bartlett, the recovery plan for Caribbean economies and the regional tourism industry, which has lost more than 70 per cent of its visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic, depends on a united front.
Bartlett was speaking at last Friday's Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association forum, held to discuss the key to the region's economic recovery when he made the call.
Noting that 16 of the 28 economies in the region are supported by tourism, he said the timely recovery of the sector is “crucial” to the overall economic stability of the region.
The socioeconomic fallout from any prolonged disruption to the sector, he argued, is likely to produce “dire consequences for the Caribbean”.
In 2019, the travel and tourism sector contributed US$59 billion to the Caribbean's gross domestic product (GDP) and on average contributes 33 per cent of the GDP and 52 per cent of the export receipts.
Direct employment amounted to 413,000, representing an average of 18 per cent of the total employment.
“The collaboration that the region requires for recovery is going to be at like we've never seen before. I think we're going to have to look at how do we avoid competitiveness in the traditional sense where we're all fighting each other to show who is able to do more and who can do whatever,” Bartlett told regional tourism ministers and other guests at the virtual meeting.
He said countries must work towards a point where the Caribbean is seen as an integrated region where collaboration is key and resources are shared.
According to Bartlett, it is time the region is marketed in a multi-destinational way.
“We need to look at how do we change the requirements to enable us to have a seamless travel facility in the region. Can we find a single Caribbean passport that allows entry everywhere? Can we find a single visa regime that allows us to land in Jamaica and to move as domestic into Barbados, Trinidad and so on? Can we find a situation where we rationalise our airspace where a single fee is paid to enable airlines to move through with a lower cost for bringing visitors into our region?
“There are a number of new and innovative steps that we now have to look at. How do we create three critical outcomes to make our region really ready... One is security, two safety and three seamlessness and I believe that if we are able to make those three elements a feature of our experience in the Caribbean then we will be well on our way to a recovery that will perhaps be shorter that the three or four-year projection that is currently on stream,” said Bartlett.
In the same breath, minister of tourism and international transport in Barbados, Lisa Cummins, insisted that there is a need to emphasise domestic and intra-regional tourism.
“I would welcome the day across the region where we're able to have joint marketing in the same way that the cruise industry comes on a seven-day and a 14-day itinerary and persons travel by sea to one or more sometimes five or six destinations in seven days. We would want to welcome across the region joint collaboration which promotes seamless travel across the Caribbean to experience multiple levels of Caribbean authenticity,” said Cummins.
She argued that what has happened throughout the region over the years is the allowance of external parties to “white label” the Caribbean as simply a region of sun, sea, and sand.
“We think that this is very much the time to change that. We have done an extraordinary job of keeping our region safe and we want to be able to showcase our region and our countries to our citizens in the Caribbean,” she said.