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The Future in Motion. A New Momentum explained by the Jamaica Minister of Tourism

When there is a relevant global event or initiative the Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett changes into its global jacket and makes a difference not only for a better global tourism world but also for his small Caribbean Nation.

At the 12-13 ongoing Global Citizen Forum conference in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE Minister Bartlett set on the stage with Bogolo Kenewendo, Former Minister of Trade and Industry from Botswana, and Thomas Anthony, a strategic investment consultant from Antigua and Barbuda – among others.

Transcript of Minister Bartlett’s remarks on Cross Border Collaboration from Periphery to the Core:

As a Minister of Tourism for one of the world’s most tourism-dependent countries in the world’s most tourism-dependent region, I am in a safe position to say that the current pandemic has presented the greatest challenge to the sector that I have ever witnessed. As a consequence of the various containment measures that have been introduced and sustained across countries, all of which have curtailed public assembly as well as domestic and international travel, the tourism sector, for the past eleven to twelve months, has been dealing with a historic crisis that it has been unable to respond to with any degree of confidence and certainty.

Suddenly, all our previous gains as well as strategies that had seemingly worked well, up to two years ago, now appear inadequate to respond to the new demands of the pandemic era.

While the long-term implications of the current global health crisis are yet to be fully measured, we have already accumulated compelling evidence that the capacities of countries to effectively adapt and position themselves to recover quickly has been based on a range of economic, geographical, cultural but mostly political factors. Indeed, political leadership has emerged as a distinct catalyst of the resilience and agility of countries during this crisis period.

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It has been a crucial force for engendering national solidarity, harnessing the collective efforts of societies, mobilizing resources for social interventions and national responses, coordinating with both domestic and external stakeholders for positive outcomes, and maintaining the balance between warning, activism, and assurance. Undoubtedly, against the backdrop of unprecedented and prolonged disruption induced by the pandemic, effective leadership has enabled Jamaica’s tourism industry to remain buoyant and resilient.

In the context of Jamaica, due to a combination of swift action, proactive leadership, effective communication, and innovative thinking, we were able to quickly adapt and implement new health and safety protocols that guided the tourism sector’s management of the pandemic in accordance with globally-accepted standards. From the first positive case of COVID19 was confirmed in April 2020 we began to actively engage all stakeholders- travel agencies, cruise lines, hoteliers, booking agencies, marketing agencies, airlines, etc.

WHTA, WTO, CTO CHTA among others. This was critical in ensuring that we continued to gain the confidence of the international community that the country was taking all the steps necessary to remain a safe and secure destination for all visitors. We also adopted a whole of society approach to the implementation
and monitoring of protocols. For example, our five-point plan for the recovery of the tourism sector which emphasized the development of robust health and safety protocols, increased training for all segments of the tourism sector, building safety and security infrastructure, and acquiring PPE and hygiene tools was designed and implemented based on a public-private sector partnership consisting of key stakeholders including hoteliers, the Ministry of Tourism, the
Ministry of Health and various other agencies.

Our 88-page COVID-19 mitigation protocols, developed for the whole sector also received the endorsement by the WTTC and complemented our highly successful Resilient Corridors to the north and south of the island, designed to keep workers, communities, and visitors safe by only opening areas/zones that we have the capacity to effectively monitor and manage. Beyond a commitment of safe reopening and quick recovery, the tourism sector’s response to the pandemic has paid attention to the human side. Throughout 2020, the various agencies
continued to provide critical support to Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) within the industry that has been reeling from the effects of COVID-19, including artisans and craft vendors, transportation providers, restaurants and eateries, bed and breakfasts, and farmers.

Within the last few months, a robust support structure has been built out to support enterprises within the sector. The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has collaborated with key partners to create several initiatives geared towards helping SMTEs retool and rebound from COVID-19, including the provision of resilience packages, loan facilitation, and grants provided through the Ministry
of Finance and the Public Services.

Throughout 2020, the Ministry of Tourism renewed its commitment to building human capital in the tourism industry to ensure a competitive and productive workforce that can meet the growing demand for specialized skills in the travel and tourism industry. The Ministry continued to provide certification to hundreds of tourism workers through partnerships between the Human Employment and Resource Training/National Service Training Agency Trust (HEART/NSTA Trust), Universal Service Fund (USF), National Restaurants Association (NRA), the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), and Jamaica Centre of Tourism
Innovation (JCTI), which is a division of the TEF, tasked specifically with facilitating the
development of Jamaica’s valuable human capital and supporting innovation for the tourism sector.

The JCTI is currently offering middle management certification in areas such as:
Certified Food and Beverage Executive (CFBE); Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive (CHHE); Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT) Certified Hotel Concierge (CHC). Additionally, the recently-introduced Hospitality and Tourism Management Programme (HTMP), administered in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, graduated its first cohort last year.

The graduates are now in possession of entry-level tourism qualifications.
The Ministry and its agencies have also been thinking about the new health and safety requirements that have shaped perceptions of destination security and attractiveness during this crisis period. Coinciding with the new travel requirements for international travelers, we launched JAMAICA CARES last year to amplify the themes of safe and seamless travel.

Jamaica Cares is an innovative end-to-end travel protection and emergency services
program that provides visitors with the cost of medical care, evacuations, field rescue, case management, and patient advocacy caused by several factors including natural disasters. As it relates to COVID-19, the protection plan also covers testing for symptomatic travelers, quarantine/isolation in a medical facility or sanctioned quarantine facilities, and evacuation, if necessary.

Overall, JAMAICA CARES galvanizes a destination-wide COVID-19 response and
encompasses our industry-leading Resilient Corridors, extensive health and safety protocols, entry testing, COVID-19 training for hospitality workers, travel authorization, and much more.

As we look to the future, the current pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted several critical considerations that must inform the future of the tourism sector. Recovery has become almost synonymous with resilience-building. The sector needs to become more adaptable, resilient, and agile.

This pandemic has presented us with a unique opportunity to transition towards more balanced tourism as it is anticipated that more international tourists will opt for “sustainable” destinations in the post-covid era. Importantly, the sector must find ways to answer the question of how increasingly scarce natural resources can be prudently managed and how economic growth can be aligned with the social and economic needs of local populations and communities as well as the preservation of the natural environment. Tourism development strategies and practices must be increasingly designed with the view of promoting more resource-efficient
initiatives that are aligned with goals of sustainable consumption and production.

Understanding the volatile and difficult environment within which they operate, we have come to terms with the fact that reducing the number of raw materials, energy, production, operating, and disposal costs will increase the sector’s bottom line.

Overall, the Ministry and its agencies remain committed to nurturing a tourism sector that generates benefits for all involved in the value chain. We are well aware that the road to recovery will be very daunting. We are also cognizant that tourism is a resilient sector that has also bounced back from adversities. We are now in full recovery mode.

Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism Jamaica

The strategic framework for resetting Jamaica’s tourism will be guided by the Blue Ocean Strategy that will allow us to meet our growth targets of five million visitors, five billion dollars and five thousand new rooms by 2025 in a sustainable manner.

A Blue Ocean Strategy is defined as the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand. It is about creating and capturing uncontested market space, thereby making the competition irrelevant. It is based on the view that market boundaries and industry structure are
not a given and can be reconstructed by the actions and beliefs of industry players.

A Blue Ocean Strategy calls for the creation of business models that depart from traditional models based on competition and standardization. It will see our Ministry pursuing enhanced value- creation, through product differentiation and diversification, which will allow Destination Jamaica to appeal to new markets and stimulate new demands. Over the long term, a vital component of the Blue Ocean Strategy will be to strengthen the systems for tourism zoning and theming, so
that the unique characteristics of each destination area will be preserved and enhanced to support their own distinct brand appeal.

Resetting Jamaica’s tourism also requires the identification and establishment of innovative policies, systems, protocols, and standards that will assure our visitors a safer, secure, and seamless experience while building out a new national tourism model based on a diversified portfolio of unique and authentic attractions and activities, which draw heavily on Jamaica’s natural and cultural assets and ensure that more locals can participate in and benefit from the tourism sector.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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