KINGSTON, Jamaica (4 October, 2017) - Jamaica continues to extend our thoughts and prayers to our Caribbean brothers and sisters, especially residents in those islands that took a direct hit from the recent hurricanes and to everyone who has been or will be affected as a result of these catastrophic storms.
We recognize that the entire Caribbean region will be adversely impacted by the lasting results of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and have set a course of action that is designed to minimize the long-term effect on the region.
We acknowledge, with thanks, receipt from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), in conjunction with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), the periodic status reports issued in cooperation with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), and applaud the efforts at assisting the region and ensuring that timely and accurate information is disseminated.
We are aware that CTO and CDEMA technical teams have been on the ground in the various islands doing rapid needs assessments and coordinating with the national authorities in managing the various interventions, to mitigate the pain and hardships that are so pervasive at this time.
As a direct result of these unprecedented hurricanes, a meeting was convened by the World Tourism Organization – the United Nations specialised agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism (UNWTO) - at the General Assembly in Chengdu, China on 13 September, 2017. There were some 10 countries from the Caribbean and Latin America represented at the meeting – Bahamas, Barbados, Colombia, Costa, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela - in addition to representatives from the USA, France, Spain, the Netherlands, the UNWTO and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean member of the UNWTO, was absent from the general assembly.
The outcome of that meeting was a decision to assist in the Caribbean natural disaster risk management and response initiatives and to include in the programme for the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica and World Bank Group Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism in Montego Bay, Jamaica from 27-29 November, an opportunity for all interested parties to discuss and implement a plan of action.
As a proud host of this important global summit, Jamaica is honoured that the UNWTO has asked that I coordinate its involvement in this recovery effort for the region. The first step therefore was to reach out to the regional tourism organizations – CTO, CHTA and CDEMA - to brainstorm opportunities for collaboration.
Along with representatives of CTO and CHTA, we discussed how the CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) taking place in Grenada on 10 -13 October could feed into the special session in Jamaica, and that a document will emerge from SOTIC which will help to inform that session at the Jamaica/UNWTO summit.
The portion of the SOTIC conference which will inform discussion at the Jamaica/UNWTO event is the Recover & Rebuild session, scheduled for 12 October.
The Recover & Rebuild session will be an in-depth four-hour segment where we will hear from leading experts in disaster preparedness and mitigation, recovery, funding, airport development and maintenance, airlines, cruise lines, telecommunications and media, as well as representatives of the hotel sector and member countries that have experienced - and recovered from - major catastrophes.
Recover & Rebuild will focus on the economic cost of the disasters, including the potential impact on gross domestic product, employment, the cost to rebuild and the recovery time. Key recommendations emerging from Recover & Rebuild will form part of the comprehensive document which we believe will have industry-wide international significance.
We urge everyone in the travel, hospitality and tourism industry including airlines, airport managers, cruise lines, cruise port managers, hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents and my fellow Ministers and Directors of Tourism across the region, as well as in our source markets, especially those in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, to attend both the SOTIC in Grenada from 10 to 13 October and the UNWTO meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica on 27-29 November. These two crucial events will help set the course for recovery and growth for all of us over the next year and shape the future of tourism for the Caribbean region.