Jamaica is rapidly emerging as the leading regional centre for new thinking about tourism.
In the last few weeks it has become clear that its proposed Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre now has enough international and domestic support to enable it to develop a prospectus to take to international donors.
This is welcome as an international centre of this kind, located in the Caribbean, will do much to help the region better understand what is required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry that now dominates most regional economies.
In outline, the centre, which might benefit from having a more user-friendly name, is to be housed at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus. The intention is that it will become the world’s leading institution for research, advocacy, training and policy development on issues related to sustainability in tourism.
Initially it will focus on delivering a ‘barometer’ that will identify the preparedness, management capacity and ability of every tourism destination globally to recover from crises from hurricanes and monsoons to terrorism.
In the longer term, however, the centre is expected to do much more.
According to a document produced earlier this year, the intention is that it will provide a wide range of advice as new issues arise in the complex value chains that enable the industry to prosper.
The idea is that the centre will develop multiple activities and outputs: a monitoring and evaluation unit able to identify problems that have the potential to change or damage the industry; publicly available and interrogatable statistics, studies and reports; a think tank; and an international role in developing awareness of the economic importance of the industry’s sustainability. To help achieve this, its initial sponsors have agreed to fund a Chair on innovation and resilience at UWI, who will be tasked with overseeing the operational, organisational, and institutional direction of the Centre.
It is envisaged that as the institution’s activities and output develop, it will also provide tourism related inputs for implementing some or all the UN’s seventeen sustainable development goals (the SDGs) agreed in 2015, especially those relating to employment, economic growth, responsible consumption and production, climate action and gender equality.
In the last two weeks the centre took an important step forward. Several leading industry figures and international groups influential in developing global policy towards tourism met in London in the margins of World Travel Market. There they agreed to establish a Board and to how the new body should move forward over the next three months.
Those involved in the discussions were according to Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism, the Pacific Asia Travel Association, the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the Jamaica National Group; the University of the West Indies; the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage; the Travel Corporation; the Japan National Tourism Organization; as well as others including the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), the World Travel & Tourism Council, and the US Department of Commerce. The names of other supporting bodies and governments are expected to emerge soon.
According to Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, this now paves the way for the official launch which will take place when the country hosts CHTA’s annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace at the end of January 2019 in Montego Bay.
Although not specifically Caribbean related, the centre and its establishment come at an important moment for the region. The tourism sector in the Caribbean is increasingly mature and as an industry should be thinking less about visitor numbers and more about delivering lasting nation-wide social and economic growth. It should also be spending more time undertaking a detailed analysis of Caribbean tourism’s long-term viability and encouraging new thinking, all issues the new institution will be able to help the region address.
Although some in the industry remain sceptical about the value of the centre, once established it will likely put Jamaica, the Caribbean and the UWI on the global map as the leading centre for new thinking, research and information dissemination about the issues and requirements of an industry that is still not widely understood by policymakers.
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The views and opinions expressed in the Business of Tourism are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Caribbean Council.