Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says regional and global multi-stakeholder policy collaboration is key in ensuring the Caribbean’s full recovery from the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mr. Bartlett said COVID-19 has not only wreaked havoc on Caribbean economies, but has brought tourism to a point where “nothing will, probably, ever be the same again”.
He was speaking with JIS News in his capacity as newly appointed Chairman of the Working Group on Accelerating the Recovery of the Airline and Cruise Industries in the Post-Pandemic Stage of the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee on Tourism.
Mr. Bartlett said tourism-dependent economies, such as those in the Caribbean, are being disproportionately impacted by the socio-economic fallout from the global health crisis.
Noting that the region has limited social safety nets, he argued that “this means that our people, economy and future are far more likely to be decimated by COVID-19 than nations with more diversified economies”.
Against this background, the Minister said countries can no longer operate in isolation and independent of each other.
“We have to be smart and put our collective minds together to tackle this common enemy and prepare ourselves for that post COVID-19 era,” he emphasized.
Mr. Bartlett said the economic fallout for tourism in 2020, consequent on the pandemic, is projected to range between US$910 billion and US$1.2 trillion.
Additionally, he said 100 million to 120 million direct jobs are at risk as a result of international travel restrictions and reduced global demand.
“The travel and tourism sector contributed nearly US$59 billion to the gross domestic product of the Caribbean in 2019. On average, the tourism industry directly contributes up to about 33 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and over 52 per cent of export receipts,” he added.
The Minister pointed out that tourism accounts for 54 per cent of GDP in Antigua and Barbuda, 42 per cent in Belize, 41 per cent in Barbados, 38 per cent in Dominica, and 34 per cent in Jamaica.
Additionally, he said the industry provides direct jobs for 413,000 workers in the Caribbean, representing 18.1 per cent of total employment.
“When we factor indirect and induced employment, this estimate could rise to 43.1 per cent with a distribution skewed upward in tourism-dependent Eastern Caribbean countries,” the Minister added.
Mr. Bartlett said that from the region’s perspective, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has indicated that the pandemic is affecting the economies through external and domestic factors.
The combined impact of these, he added, is expected to result in the most severe contraction that the region has experienced since documentation of such outcomes commenced in 1900.
“Caribbean tourism is expected to contract by 20-30 per cent this year, with tourist arrivals dropping by 75 per cent in the last three quarters of 2020. This contraction… is sharply slowing economic activity in the Caribbean with growth projected to [decline] by 6.2 percent in 2020,” Mr. Bartlett indicated.
Consequently, he said tourism’s recovery of tourism will depend on “how and when borders are opened across the world”.
Against this background, Mr. Bartlett advised that the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC), tasked with leading the Caribbean’s COVID-19 recovery effort, will continue to strengthen collaboration with its network of local, regional and international partners, to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on destinations, and identify effective strategies for their recovery.