Bartlett says ‘no vax’ main threat to tourism recovery

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, predicted Tuesday that if Jamaica gets over its low vaccination count, the tourism industry will return to growth.

According to the minister, the recovery in the industry has been going well, but it is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of most Jamaicans to get vaccinated.

“I think that the low vaccination rate has been our single most deleterious impact that tourism has had,” Bartlett told a meeting with journalists at the home of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies on Tuesday.

He said that as a result of the low vaccination rate, the seamlessness which is necessary for the recovery of tourism is not possible, “meaning to say that we have had to maintain various types of restriction that have inhibited the recovery”.

So if we can get over this difficulty with vaccination, you would be surprised to see how the industry will grow,” he said, noting that investments can also be affected by the situation.

He noted that the Dominican Republic, for example, with 80-90 per cent vaccinated, has been able to entertain 700,000 visitors in one month (January), more than Jamaica was doing before the pandemic, after dispensing with a lot of the restrictions

Bartlett said, however, that “ignorance” was at the heart of the failure to become vaccinated, which if it continues to prevail will slow down recovery even more.

The minister had invited journalists to the meeting to discuss plans for the GTRCMC on the February inauguration of Global Tourism Resilience Day, which he is urging other players in the industry across the world to join in making it an annual event.

 “We will launch Global Tourism Resilience Day on February 17, as Jamaica prepares to mark Jamaica Day the following day,” said Bartlett, Co-Chair of the GTRCMC) with Dr Taleb Rifai, former United nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)  Secretary General.

“The focus will be on the ability of countries to build capacity to respond to international shocks and to be able to predict with greater certainty their responses,” Bartlett told the luncheon.

He added that the event will also aid countries in understanding and mitigating the effects of the economic shocks on their development and, most importantly, it will help them manage and recover quickly afterwards.

“We will begin this process by advocating to international bodies such as the United Nations for the observation of a Global Tourism Resilience Day beginning February 17, 2023, and every year following,” he noted.

Bartlett also noted that the Dubai Expo has surpassed 10 million visitors and has 108 countries represented in individual pavilions, making it the ideal location for the event.

“We are going to be doing things like disaster risk management training and building out something for a Central American travel recovery plan, as well as working with Haiti which has also set up a task force for a tourism recovery programme,” he stated.

He said that the GTRCMC already has a very unique programme, working with Japanese investors to build stronger initiatives together, including community tourism, capacity building and creating digital marketing teams, which can go into inner city communities to find young people and teach them to use their cell phones in a more constructive way.

Bartlett also declared that with cybercrime becoming a big part of the future challenge, not only for tourism, but in terms of the protection of the data bases of large tourism entities, whose data bases have been hacked into, more focus will also have to be placed on its growth.

He said that in terms of the benefits for Jamaica, its own capacity to respond to crises will be enhanced through the training and development of its people, and the implementation of practical responses to major shocks.

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