Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett yesterday argued that the proposed Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre and Observatory, to be set up at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, could be the catalyst for a renewed thrust towards regional integration.
“This is a construct that is overdue, but one that can really bring the region together in the way that the University of the West Indies did, or how cricket did… you can’t talk about integration in the true sense of it and you have no commonalities (and) culture is too broad and wide,” he said at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.
Bartlett and a team from his ministry, the Tourism Enhancement Fund and Tourism Product Development Company discussed with reporters and editors a broad range of programmes that are being developed in the local tourism industry.
The centre, which is the first such facility in the world, was approved at a meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) held in Montego Bay last November, with backing from stakeholders including the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
“The buy-in that we are getting is unbelievable,” Bartlett said.
He pointed to the recent tsunami advisories issued for Jamaica and other countries in the region after a massive magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea between the coast of Honduras and the Cayman Islands, noting the delay in the transmission of crucial information.
“We knew about it two hours after the tsunami alert was issued, which means we would have been consumed before we even knew there was an earthquake. Because the information was issued based on a time zone, we got confused — countries like ours that have these vulnerabilities, particularly for climatic and seismic events, need this kind of data to guide us, and the observatory in particular that tracks these activities. A centre like this will change that because it would give you instant information,” he explained.
Bartlett argued that the centre will give the region the capacity to be better able to manage, mitigate, and quickly recover from these events. The centre will be armed with guidelines, tool kits and policies to handle the recovery process in the event of a crisis, facilitating information flow among all stakeholders in the tourism industry within and outside of the region.
“This (would) become a little piece of the world that Jamaica controls,” the tourism minister stated.
At the UNWTO global conference on sustainable tourism held in Montego Bay, St James in November last year, a 15-point declaration emerged, calling for, among other things, support for the establishment of a global tourism resilience centre and observatory for the Caribbean to assist with preparedness, management and recovery from crises which impact tourism and threaten the economies of the region.
The centre is to be set up before the end of the year.