The Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Center (GTRCMC) has made an enormous step forward last week in declaring February 17 as the annual Global Resilience Day during the World Expo in Dubai.
The brain behind this resilience movement in tourism is a proud Minister of Tourism from Jamaica, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett. He is currently in Amman, Jordan, where GTCMC is opening its third global centre.
There is something different and special at this opening of this centre in the Jordan capital. Dr Taleb Rifai was not only a former minister of tourism for Jordan, and a two-term Secretary-General for the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), he symbolizes the good and hope in today’s struggling world of travel and tourism.
Not only is he proud, but he also appears humbled and deeply moved, when the Resilience Center that opened yesterday at the Middle East University in Amman bears his name: The Dr Taleb Rifai Center
This is GTRCMC’s third location, with many more in the pipeline.
According to a report in Breaking Travel News, Dr Rifai said at the opening: “I was simply doing my job.”
He reminded the world as he did in his speech when leaving UNWTO: “It is the job of every one of us to leave the world in a better place than how we find it.
“I have travelled the world, and when we travel, we have the power to change the world. I travelled the world, and I am a better man. Tourism is so important, and it remains undervalued.”
Rifai concluded: “I do not deserve this honour, I really do not, but I am happy to accept it on behalf of everybody in the tourism sector around the world.”
Speaking this evening at the dedication ceremony, Jordan minister of tourism, Nayef Himiedi Al-Fayez, said the facility would allow the sector to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
He explained: “The establishment of this centre is a great honour for Jordan.
According to Breaking Travel News, the minister said: “Tourism contributes around 15 per cent of our GDP – but the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has cost us around 76 per cent of the sector.
“We were able to work with different teams to bring tourism gradually back to where it is today.
“However, the market is still 55 per cent down from 2019. It means we have a long way to go in order to overcome the crisis we went through.”
He added: “Crises are not new to us here in the Middle East, and the establishment of this centre and its research programme will allow us to overcome them in the future as quickly as possible.
“We are used to recovery, but we need to be quicker, reducing damage, and this institution will allow us to do that. I have no doubt that this centre will be of great use to us here in Jordan, as well as to our neighbours in the region.
“We are all excited about the possibility of this centre, it will be another feature of this distinguished university. I thank Taleb Rifai for all he has done for Jordan, both in the country and in the international arena. His great accomplishments are greatly appreciated.”
The new Global Tourism Resilience & Disaster Management Centre at the Middle East University is now the Taleb Rifai Centre. Professor Salam Almahadin, president of the university.
She has been in her field for 28 years. She taught courses in philosophy, cultural studies, translation studies and language skills.
She is a member of the Cultural Committee, the Study Plans Committee, and the Faculty of Arts and Communication Council
Almahadin enthused: “This centre comes on the heels of a global pandemic which has forced us to reassess how we respond to the crisis. Our efforts are critical to the work of recovery.
“No university is more suited to the task; Middle East University is no stranger to international collaboration, we are the only university in Jordan which affords the opportunity to study in the UK, for example.
“The centre will maintain an international view; we pride ourselves on the highest standards of education.
“This facility will increase our academic offering – and allow us to seek funding to carry out research on tourism resilience, creating guidelines and toolkits for crisis management.”
The Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre, headquartered in Jamaica at the University of the West Indies (Mona campus), was the first academic resource centre dedicated to addressing crises and resilience for the travel industry.
The body assists destinations in preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions and/or crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods globally. Since its inception in 2018, satellite centres have been launched in Kenya and now Jordan.
Jamaica Minister of Tourism and Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre co-founder, Edmund Bartlett, added: “We are seeking a choreographed path in dealing with catastrophe.”
“I am happy to welcome Jordan to the network of the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre and I look forward to the work we can do together.
“We are striving to recover from the pandemic, but there is still a great amount of work to be done – we are still 47 per cent behind visitor numbers seen in 2019. I believe Dr Rifai was the most important visionary of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
“His work across the world is legendary – and, perhaps, he will tell you his greatest success was to mainstream tourism across the world.
“He, along with the World Travel & Tourism Council, created the ‘golden book,’ taken around the world, signed by global leaders, endorsing the importance of the tourism sector.
“To dedicate this centre to this great man is not just a thought, not just an expression, but a vindication of a man who has given so much of his life to building an industry.”
Also at the launch, this evening, the Kenya secretary of tourism, Najib Balala, said: “We will bounce back, but the centre here in Jordan, which joins the second centre in Kenya, will allow us to overcome the challenges and learn the lessons.
“When we make profits, we forget about saving, it is important we develop a resilience fund, to help us overcome challenges as they arise.
“Today we need leadership, and sometimes we do not see leadership. Taleb Rifai has offered leadership and this centre reflects that.”
From the private sector, Samer Majali, chief executive of Royal Jordanian Airlines, said the centre would allow the Middle East to combat negative perceptions of the region.
Juergen Steinmetz, chairman and founder of the World Tourism Network said:
“There is not enough the world of tourism can do to thank Dr Taleb Rifai for his personal and selfless contribution and mentorship he gave to so many in our struggling sector.
“Dr Taleb Rifai symbolizes everything that is good in the world of travel and tourism, Dr. Rifai is Dr. Tourism.
“Taleb has been playing an essential role in signalling hope and a way forward in our darkest days. His experience, his personality has guided so many in the world to deal with this crisis.
“Taleb is a giant in the world of tourism. He is a global citizen like no other.
“He is a man who has been moving mountains every day, quiet but many bricks at a time. He is driven by his strong belief that every one of us should leave the world in a better place than how we found it. Congratulations Dr. Rifai!”