Commonwealth urged to rethink approach to tourism
Edmund Bartlett

KIGALI, Rwanda — Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is urging Commonwealth member states to rethink their approach to tourism.

Addressing a session dubbed Sustainable Tourism & Travel during the Commonwealth Business Forum on Wednesday, on the margins of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Bartlett argued that the tourism industry holds significant potential to boost economic convergence among Commonwealth economies.

“The formulation of post-COVID-19 economic recovery and growth strategies for Commonwealth countries require that countries urgently rethink the existing frameworks of economic partnerships, with the goal of realigning the boundaries of international trade in their favour,” said Bartlett, who was part of a ministerial panel with Gibraltar’s Minister for Business, Tourism and the Port Vijay Daryanani; and Hamat Ngai Kumba Bah, minister of tourism and culture for The Gambia.

Expanding on his presentation with the Jamaica Observer on Thursday, Bartlett said the ministerial panel provided an opportunity for Commonwealth officials to look closely at how tourism has recovered and the challenges posed by the pandemic.

He also proposed more collaboration in training and development among Commonwealth states, including worker exchange to drive the new experiences being demanded by tourists.

“The Commonwealth, I believe, is on the verge of becoming a real powerhouse. It does have the potential, it has the resources, it has the people power, it has the technology — and what is required is the will. The leadership will to do it,” declared Bartlett as he argued that Commonwealth member states have the tools to create a post-COVID-19 recovery that leaves no one behind.

He also expanded on his call for the establishment of a visa regime that will allow visitors to land in some Commonwealth countries and travel to others in the same region without any further entry requirements.

Bartlett argued that the Commonwealth can do more to drive tourism through its 54 member states, despite the vast distance between some countries.

“Tourism is the fastest way of recovering after any global dislocation, and the pandemic has indicated that in terms of the level of recovery that we are seeing. The Commonwealth has 2.6 billion people, some of the largest countries of the world, and the mix of countries represents a very interesting combination with great possibilities for interdependence and sharing,” Bartlett told the Observer.

“So, we think that there is need for the Commonwealth to look at creating a greater level of access within its borders to allow for greater interchange and for creating a more fluid or seamless movement of tourists within the Commonwealth area,” added Bartlett.

He is proposing that the visa regime be looked at in terms of standardisation, in a manner similar manner to the Schengen visa which allows people to travel to any country in Europe’s Schengen Area, for stays up to 90 days, for tourism or business purposes.

The Schengen Area is a zone where 26 European countries abolished their internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people, in harmony with common rules for controlling external borders.

“Commonwealth countries,” Bartlett argued, “could have access even in a manner which would allow, like groupings of us, let’s say the Caribbean, to have a single passport even, and certainly a single visa regime that enables people to be domestic once they land in a Caricom (Caribbean Community) country. That configuration could also be applied to the Pacific where they have groupings of Commonwealth countries.

“The larger source markets of India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and so on could definitely become the areas from which visitors are drawn to these smaller countries,” suggested Bartlett.

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