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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, September 26, 2017: Key members of the newly formed United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Disaster Recovery Working Group for the Affected States in the Caribbean will convene in Grenada on October 9 to discuss how to assist tourism dependent member states recently ravaged by natural disasters.
The meeting will be held during the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s biggest tourism gathering in the region, the annual State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC).
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who is coordinator of the working group, noted that 13 of 79 countries in the world with economies that have tourism dependence of 10 percent or more are in the Caribbean. “If there are seismic or climatic events which have damaged and ravaged and caused disruption in economic flow as well as the destruction of property and the loss of human lives, that represents a serious moment for us in the region,” the Tourism Minister said.
His observation was made as he spoke at Sunday’s official opening of JAPEX 2017, the annual product exchange forum for suppliers and buyers driving the island’s tourism market. Hosted jointly by the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, hundreds of stakeholders are participating in the 27-year old annual event at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James.
Minister Bartlett said that as convenor of the UNWTO working group he intends “to begin immediately to look at developing and mobilising support for the region” because “tourism is hurt if the Caribbean is hurt and if the Caribbean is hurt global tourism is hurt.”
Several stakeholders, including the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, the Caribbean Tourism Organization and a number of multilateral agencies, are being targeted for their support in the rescue and rebuilding initiative.
Coming out of the Grenada meeting, Minister Bartlett said, “A plan of action will be crafted, site visits will be done and when we meet in Jamaica for the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism’ at the Montego Bay Convention Center November 27 to 29, we will kick off the action plan for the restoration of the tourism sector.”
Delivering the keynote address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness also took note of sister islands that have been devastated by hurricanes. He said, “In some cases tourism was the single industry and in some cases tourism is the major industry in those islands. They must and will rebuild, however, this time they must factor in disaster resilience, recovery and adaptation in a systematic and institutional way.”
He underscored that, “The world has been forced to acknowledge that there is urgent need for responsibility, adaptation and resilience as we recognize our changing realities. Climate change is real and it will disproportionately affect those of us who are least prepared to respond to its effects.”
At the local level, he said Jamaica had a well-known brand and “the tourism sector continues to support economic growth and development in the Jamaican economy through increased investment and job creation.”
Prime Minister Holness said while welcoming tourism’s growth, “We are mindful that such growth comes with increased responsibility to promote our common values and to work together as only through partnerships we will succeed.”
The Prime Minister said sustainability was a core feature of Jamaica’s growth agenda, adding, “We must find the right balance so that we have growth but not at the expense of the environment.”
This year’s JAPEX attracted 62 buyer companies with 105 delegates and 99 supplier companies with 246 delegates.