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MONTEGO BAY, St. James; August 15, 2019: Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett has indicated that Jamaica is taking note that the potential global economic downturn and sargassum phenomena are real threats to the tourism industry.
"We recall the recession of 2008 that impacted economies globally and recognize the need to strategize in light of data and trends. Despite this global recession, Jamaica's tourism grew by an average 3.5% and we will need to learn from those lessons," said Minister Bartlett.
There is general concern that the global economy may be on the verge of a slight downturn and possible recession. There is also concern regarding sargassum, which is a type of seaweed that can negatively impact tourist destinations when washed up on shore.
Minister Bartlett said, “The possibility of a global economic downturn can have a devastating impact on not only Jamaica’s tourism but the region’s tourism. Coupled with this potential threat is now the impending influx of sargassum on our shores. What this means is that we must act decisively and swiftly to collaborate on the best way forward to get ahead of these threats.”
Minister Bartlett was speaking at a meeting with members of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) today at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, to discuss the threat of sargassum on the island’s tourism. The meeting included senior officials from the Ministry and its agencies, key hotel stakeholders and President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association.
“This meeting with our hotel partners is critical as we seek ways to develop economic resilience. These threats have the potential to negatively impact our livelihoods given the fact that the Caribbean is so heavily dependent on tourism.
Last year, the Caribbean welcomed 29.9 million visitors and contributed 40% of the region’s GDP but if we do not act, we could see our growth in arrivals and earnings go down,” added Minister Bartlett.
Minister Bartlett also used the opportunity to have partners from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) make a presentation on their suggested strategy to cut off the sargassum prior to it reaching our shores and to get feedback from hoteliers.
President of the JHTA, Omar Robinson also highlighted the need to urgently identify solutions to “mitigate against any potential fallout this could have on our tourism product.”
Minister Bartlett added that as it relates to sargassum, “The Global Tourism and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM) is leading the charge to collaborate and conduct research to come up with workable solutions. Earlier this week, the GTRCM also met with the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, to explore future collaboration regarding research on the sargassum challenges faced by the Caribbean towards identifying solutions.”
Minister Bartlett, through the GTRCM, recently spearheaded a regional sargassum forum which included mechanical engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Precision Engineering Research Group; and noted researchers from the University of the West Indies, Mona and the GTRCM.
On October 9 and 10 of this year, the GTRCM will host a second summit with leading researchers geared towards climatic disruptions with a focus on sargassum.