Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, has called on the countries of the Americas to redouble their efforts in finding practical and meaningful solutions for the reactivation of the travel and tourism sector.
He was speaking on Thursday (June 24), at the 66th meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Regional Commission for the Americas (CAM) and the Ministerial Dialogue on ‘Reactivation of the tourism sector for inclusive growth’ at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
The tourism sector in the Americas has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Barometer for January to March 2021, indicates that the region saw a 68 per cent decrease in international tourist arrivals in 2020 to reach around 70 million, down from 219 million in 2019.
The report also noted that international tourism receipts in the Americas declined 60 per cent in real terms in 2020 over the previous year.
In addition, the UNWTO’s ninth report on travel restrictions, indicates that 10 destinations in the Americas, which account for 20 per cent of all destinations in the region, had completely closed their borders as of February 1, 2021.
“We hope to put these downward trends and decreases behind us as we look ahead to the positive trends in April data on hotel searches and bookings for the Caribbean and North America,” Minister Bartlett said.
Mr. Bartlett, who is Chairman of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas, noted that the work of organisations continues in creating synergies for the advancement of the sector and region through multilateral cooperation as well as bilateral engagements.
Some of these organisations include the UNWTO, the United Nations General Assembly, the Organization of American States (OAS), and CARICOM.
“As it relates to the OAS, Mexico currently chairs the Inter-American Committee on Tourism and through that forum, has sought to complement the work of the UNWTO on advancing harmoninsation of protocols and other measures for a swift return to travel and tourism,” the Minister noted.
Additionally, he said that Jamaica, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile and other countries from the Americas “have been instrumental in serving as chairs, co-chairs and members of working groups dedicated to action and recovery plans for the airline and cruise industry, climate change and sustainable development and, in fact, the standardisation of protocols”.
In his remarks, UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, said the roll-out of vaccines, lifting of travel restrictions and the return of confidence in travel, will play a crucial role in the recovery process.
Global tourism officials are in Jamaica for the blended meeting, which will explore areas of community tourism and cruise development, as well as sustainability and resilience.
Among those in attendance are Minister of Tourism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb and Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Barbados and Chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Senator Lisa Cummins.
Jamaica will relinquish its position as chair of the UNWTO Regional Commission at the General Assembly in Morocco in October.