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Jamaica is honored to host, in partnership with the UNWTO and the World Bank Group, the first Conference of this kind, the Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism.
The UNWTO conference is evidence of the strong partnership in the global tourism industry. And in furtherance of that spirit of partnership and collaboration, let me first thank two of my special friends and colleagues, CTO’s Hugh Riley and Matt Cooper of CHTA who recognize the importance of being here for today’s press conference. With the first conference of this magnitude in this hemisphere, the involvement of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, representing the public sector, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, representing the private sector, is an example of regional collaboration at its best. I do look forward to their participation and the fruits that this Caribbean triumvirate will bear.
Over the past decades, tourism has experienced significant growth and has become one of the fastest growing socio-economic sectors in the world. In 2016, international tourist arrivals totaled over 1.2 billion and are expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030.
Tourism accounts for more than 10% of global GDP, 30% of the world’s trade in services and one in eleven jobs worldwide.
It’s evident that tourism is an economic powerhouse that creates opportunities to improve the livelihoods of millions. Nevertheless, tourism is underrepresented in funding by bilateral and multilateral donors, representing less than ½ percent of gross development finance in 2015 – only USD 253 million.
Linkages between tourism and other economic sectors are often overlooked by planners and policymakers, which diminish the industry’s ability to magnify economic and development gains, both at the national and global level. At the same time, countries increasingly realize they need to develop their tourism economies as an important growth sector. Yet, despite the importance of tourism in the world economy, many countries still lag in benefitting from it.
In order for us to stem the tourism leakage, we must develop absorptive capacity by building out the linkages in our communities to capture the tourism dollar.
National planning capabilities need to be improved, investment and development frameworks must be strengthened, the legal environment requires improvement, and the capacity of the tourism trade/local beneficiaries needs strengthening as does international collaboration and synergy.
Our challenge at the conference is to respond to these critical prerequisites for tourism development by addressing the need for public and private investment/finance and how it can be expanded through innovative linkages.
The conference at its core has the following objectives:
1. Explore the threats to sustainable tourism development and identify the opportunities for governments to effect policy.
2. Prepare Small & Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTE) to develop sustainable business models that will attract traditional and non-traditional funding;
3. Expand community tourism templates to generate economic growth and decrease tourism leakage;
4. Establish dynamic framework for public-private linkages across government, multilateral agencies and donor agencies to build out the infrastructure to absorb tourism growth.
It is through these linkages that we can stem the tide of tourism leakage that threatens our ability to harness the total benefits that tourism brings.
TOURISM – A REGIONAL IMPERATIVE
As we prepare to host this conference, the importance of tourism particularly to the Caribbean region cannot be overemphasized. In the Caribbean, it’s estimated that tourism contributes more than US$27 billion to the regional economy.
Tourism is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean and also the sector receiving the most foreign direct investment (FDI). The region has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of GDP derived from tourism than any other region in the world. It is estimated that 1 in every 4 persons is employed by the tourism-related activities and the sector accounts for 41 % of all exports and services in the Caribbean and 31% of all gross domestic product.
As a region, we must strive to grow our current market share. But what we do with these increased arrivals is a discussion to be had. And so the question we must ask ourselves is, how do we increase our market share while addressing the environmental demands that increased visitor traffic places on our region and ensure that tourism’s outflows benefit Caribbean residents?
Just as we have done with the global aspect, we have included the Caribbean themes within the Call for Papers, which cover tourism and sustainability, where the threats, risks and challenges will be discussed; the strengthening of the human capital and human capital trends; the tourism value chain linkages and technology and innovation.
The conference programme, though global in nature, is highly significant to the Caribbean. And therefore, we felt that we should incorporate a programme specific to the Caribbean and some of the issues we grapple with. This programme will take place on the first day of the conference on November 27.
Tourism is no longer tourism by chance, as in days gone by; the concept of “tourism by study” is quickly being adopted by policymakers, tour operators, hotels, restaurants, etc.
And so the variety of data becomes important, especially as we aim to attract those travelers with different passion points while taking other elements into consideration such as the economic, environmental and social impact.
Additionally, as we seek to encourage investment by multi-national brands and agencies in our respective territories, we must also create the framework for the SMTE and community tourism investor to access the data so that our communities can keep up with the ever changing characteristics and demands of the world traveler.
An important outcome of the conference will be the compilation of the Draft Montego Bay Declaration. From this will flow an action plan for tourism destinations to follow, as well as the publication of the second volume of the UNWTO Global Report on Public Private Partnerships.
The blueprint of the Declaration comprise three major points:
1. To share proven international best practices for developing sustainable tourism partnerships
2. To build an inventory of major international development and funding opportunities
3. To provide governments with improved tourism development investment roadmaps
This conference will also require us to be reflective and critical of the measures we've implemented to date, to ask the question: Have we done enough to foster an environment of inclusive growth? Through our deliberations the Montego Bay Declaration will signal our commitment to our communities and the world that tourism is indeed the best opportunity for poverty eradication.
The staging of this global tourism conference is without a doubt a signal achievement and significant for Jamaica and the Caribbean. We anticipate with enthusiasm the deliberations and discussions that will emanate over the three days.
I look forward to the Conference and the opportunity it presents for further linkages and solutions to stemming the tourism leakages as we, the Caribbean, as one, continue to make tourism work for us by building the absorptive capacity to capture the tourism dollar.
TRIBUTE TO SECRETARY GENERAL UNWTO & CARIBBEAN LEGENDS AWARDS
Let me take this opportunity to announce that as the staging of the Conference takes us close to the end of the year, it also takes us to the end of the current UNWTO Secretary General’s, Dr. Rifai’s, tenure. We would, therefore, want to pay tribute to him in a very Caribbean way.
Although he will have his formal send-off in December, the UNWTO has allowed us to utilize this opportunity for the more emotional and “irie” send-off, ”irie” being the description used by the UNWTO Director of the Affiliate Members. It is our hope that as we thank Dr. Rifai for his service, we will also extend a warm Caribbean welcome to the new Secretary General of the UNWTO.
Additionally, we will utilize this forum to stage the Caribbean Legends Awards, the first of its kind, which will be a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Tourism of Jamaica, the CTO and the CHTA, supported by UNWTO. These awards, in the categories of Land, Sea and Air, will be given to individuals that have made an indelible mark on the tourism industry, not just regionally, but globally, and enhancing the Caribbean brand.
See you in Montego Bay, November 27-29.