Tourism Minister Says Disaster Risk Management Must be Addressed

Photo: JIS Photographer Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett. (FILE)

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says unless the issue of disaster risk management and mitigation is seriously addressed, the Caribbean will not be able to maximise its potential as a global force in tourism.
  • The Minister emphasised that the time has come for the region to urgently respond to, and strengthen its resilience against threats such as natural disasters, climate change, pandemics and epidemics, terrorism and cyberattacks.
  • He implored conference delegates to use the opportunity to push a global sustainability agenda that will ensure the survival and resilience of the tourism sector, on which billions of people across the world depend, directly and indirectly, for their sustenance and livelihoods.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says unless the issue of disaster risk management and mitigation is seriously addressed, the Caribbean will not be able to maximise its potential as a global force in tourism.

“More than any other time in our past, tourism authorities in the region must now seriously address the issue of disaster risk management and mitigation,” the Minister noted.

He was addressing the introductory session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Rose Hall, St. James, on November 27.

“It is clear that in recent years, the region’s tourism sector has become increasingly vulnerable to both natural disasters and external shocks, particularly climate change, which can now be reasonably described as an existential threat to our tourism sector,” Mr. Bartlett said.

The Minister emphasised that the time has come for the region to urgently respond to, and strengthen its resilience against threats such as natural disasters, climate change, pandemics and epidemics, terrorism and cyberattacks.

“We need to enhance our regional capacity to manage a range of chronic transnational challenges that can be destabilising to our tourism sector,” he added.

“Aspects of this approach could involve developing a framework of indicators to measure resilience; promoting innovation systems for climate adaptation and resilience; fostering deepened knowledge of cyberspace policy, promoting counterterrorism studies, developing urban resilience and building meaningful partnerships,” the Minister suggested.

Mr. Bartlett argued that meaningful risk management strategies for the region must focus on priority areas and outcomes, such as collaborations, information-sharing, collective action, capacity-building, resource allocation and funding, public education, planning and management of projects, behavioural modifications, monitoring and evaluation, environmental conservation, alternative and renewable energy and the adoption of green practices in the tourism sector.

He implored conference delegates to use the opportunity to push a global sustainability agenda that will ensure the survival and resilience of the tourism sector, on which billions of people across the world depend, directly and indirectly, for their sustenance and livelihoods.

“In addressing shared risks and threats, insularity and narrow self-interests must be replaced by fruitful engagements and collaborations that seek to develop cross-cutting solutions and unite tourism players under a common mission, which is to save a sector that is so dear to all of us,” the Minister said.

In the meantime, Mr. Bartlett pointed out that the Caribbean remains the most tourism-dependent region in the world, and is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the region.

“The Caribbean has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] derived from tourism than any other region in the world,” he noted.

“Despite this, however, Caribbean countries face a greater degree of vulnerability to the worst effects of major environmental disasters, particularly climate change, a phenomenon to which they have contributed the least,” the Minister said.

Mr. Bartlett said this year, the resilience of the tourism sector in the region has been tested with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which affected 13 of the most tourism-dependent countries in the region, including St. Martin, Anguilla, Dominica, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

He noted that some territories have suffered almost total devastation or over 90 per cent damage to their infrastructure from the hurricanes, adding that it will take many years and substantive investments to bounce back.

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