JAMAICA | P.J. Patterson Moots African Caribbean Collaboration as a Pathway to Global Tourism Resilience

JAMAICA | P.J. Patterson Moots African Caribbean Collaboration as a Pathway to Global Tourism Resilience

MONTEGO BAY, February 20, 2023 - Former Jamaican Prime Minister and Statesman in Residence at The P. J. Patterson Institute For African Caribbean Advocacy at the University of the West Indies, P.J. Patterson, wants Jamaica and the Caribbean to help support the growth of tourism on the African continent.

Addressing a forum on Global Tourism Resilience Day, hosted by Jamaica on February 17 at the University of the West Indies at Mona in Kingston, Mr Patterson pointed out that Tourism by its very nature, has always been vulnerable to disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts. Throughout the ages, there have been many severe shocks, but few have been of more instant global impact and cataclysmic for health and tourism than COVID-19.

Mr. Patterson said while there has been remarkable recovery in 2022 especially in the Caribbean region which is recording increases over 2019, COVID 19 was undoubtedly a major wake up call for all nations reliant on Tourism to build a new and different future.

He said  the Jamaican and Caribbean experience and capacity can help in developing an institutional framework for training that could support the growth of tourism on the African continent and also benefit us in bringing trainees here in exchanges which will create stronger professional bonds across the Atlantic.

The former Jamaican Prime Minister congratulated Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett on this timely initiative, as he addressed the conference on the theme: “Afro Caribbean: Post COVID South to South Tourism Trade Resilience.” 

The following is the full text of Mr. Patterson’s presentation to the conference:

AFRO CARIBBEAN: POST COVID SOUTH TO SOUTH TOURISM TRADE RESILIENCE

As I warmly congratulate Minister Bartlett and the GTRCMC on this timely initiative and the importance of centering our discourse around Tourism and its critical need for resilience, I crave your indulgence for one minute of nostalgia.

As then the youngest Member of the 1972 Cabinet, I took up the Tourism with no little trepidation.  It was already emerging as a sector of marked potential but not yet as now, a central plank on the national economy.
The Industry then was seasonal – the hotels open for the winter tourists from December who wanted to escape the better cold in the North until the rooms were locked up and the workers laid off in April. An International Conference of this magnitude, span and level was inconceivable.  

The PJ Patterson Institute for Africa Caribbean Advocacy was established nearly 3 years ago.  It primary purpose was articulated then,  and is even more essential in the post COVID era, as building a bridge between the people of Africa, the Caribbean and the African Diaspora who have had an inextricable ethnic and historical link that needs no elaboration in this illustrious audience.  

To achieve this, we focus on mobilising the Diaspora, Africa and the Caribbean in the fields of trade, investment, science, sports, culture, and entertainment.   In the era of the pandemic and post-pandemic there is absolutely no doubt of the urgency with which we must push forward with this agenda as the challenges of development in our two regions become more acute.   For solutions we must look to this key driver of growth, Tourism,  across the African continent and in the Caribbean.

With the diminution of sugar, bananas, rice in our export earnings for the Caribbean, and cocoa, beef, peanuts and minerals in significant portions of the African Continent, Tourism has now become for many of us the cornerstone on which we build our economies.   Given its magnetic linkage to agriculture, manufacturing and the inseparable connections with the creative industry, entertainment and services, Tourism has become the pillar on which sustainable growth and accelerated development must depend.

Tourism by its very nature has always been vulnerable to disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts.   Throughout the ages, there have been many severe shocks, but few have been of more instant global impact and cataclysmic for health and tourism than COVID-19.

The Challenges
The contribution of tourism to African GDP was measured at USD 168 billion in 2019, equivalent to 7.1% of the total GDP. Tourism also generated close to 25 million jobs, while visitor expenditures generated USD61.3BN or 10.4% of total exports.   In the Caribbean the industry generated $61.5 billion in 2019, representing 13.9% of the region’s GDP.

Without a doubt the COVID pandemic nearly decimated the industry with massive reduction in global travel.   While there has been remarkable recovery in 2022 especially in the Caribbean region which is recording increases over 2019, COVID 19 is undoubtedly a major wake up call for all nations reliant on Tourism to build a new and different future.

Both Africa and the Caribbean nations have been faced with what can be termed existential crises in the last decade.   The Russia-Ukraine war has had serious effects on food production and distribution.  The threat of global warming and climate change - heat waves, floods, wild fires, storms,  sargassum waste -  have adversely impacted us.

We have to be on the frontline of the battle against the twin threat of global warming and climate change and their associated environmental repercussions – the moreso where the industry is predominantly nature-based and revolves around marine life, wild-life artefacts, natural parks and landscapes.

Tourism depends on environmental sustainability and the sector must therefore be a formidable protector, rather than a destructive force, to reverse the current pace of global warming which would endanger the hospitality trade.

Demand Evolution
Tourist’s choices and attitudes have moved toward the known, the predictable and that in which they can have confidence.   As a result, extensive planning, domestic vacations and outdoors are expected to increase in the short term.   To this trend tourism related businesses and destinations are already conforming.

To take advantage of this growing trend towards blended travel trips, several governments are introducing specialist visas known as ‘digital nomad’ visas, which allow overseas visitors to work remotely in a country for an extended period.   Barbados has introduced the ‘Barbados Welcome Stamp’ that allows visitors to live and work remotely there for up to twelve months.

Safety, health and trust are more important to travellers than at  any other time in recent travel and tourism.   Individual experiences, the phobia of being stuck in another country and worries for distancing are expected to guide consumer attitudes in the short to mid-term.   Tourism and travel related businesses must work together more closely to be more efficient and responses  across their extended value chains.

Jamaican and Caribbean entertainers have been performing on the African continent for decades.   The influence of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff is legendary and indeed many of our current leading artistes go regularly to Africa, particularly West and Southern Africa to perform.

Similarly in the field of sports, we have benefited from some level of exchange in our athletes training together both in Jamaica and on the African continent.

Through sporting exchanges in training and competition we can forge symbiotic relationships which, with proper management will also fuel the travel trade.

Despite being the second most populous Continent, Africa received in 2019 only 5% of the 1.1 billion people who travelled to global destinations.  We should recognize that the Continent has differing tourism products and market appeal.

I believe there will be a growing demand to visit African destinations. The stimulation of cultural tourism, involving huge numbers from the Diaspora family and students  will help us overcome the challenges of air links and airlift.  

It will attract airlines and charter flights once we create a vibrant and fertile ground for people-to-people contact by building on the already existing goodwill between our two regions in culture, entertainment, and sports.

The Solutions
The strengthening of south-south collaboration for growth in this very important industry rests on two pillars that are inextricably linked:  Training and Technology.  

Training
The tourism industry as a service industry has always been seized of the need for continuous training and re-training of the workforce to address the dynamically evolving needs of travellers.   However, the pandemic has put even greater pressure on the sector in all our six regions to re-focus our efforts as the industry experienced a heavy loss of workers during the extended period of lockdown and travel restrictions. The skill sets needed to push the industry forward require training and development, quickly and intensely.

Jamaica and the Caribbean have a strong history of developing institutions to train the workforce in all aspects of tourism.   This is an area where we can explore supporting our colleagues through technical training in countries that are currently rebuilding or expanding their industries.

The Jamaican and Caribbean experience and capacity can help in developing an institutional framework for training that could support the growth of tourism on the African continent and also benefit us in bringing trainees here in exchanges which will create stronger professional bonds across the Atlantic.

Technology
The Covid Pandemic was a catalyst for adoption of new technologies to survive.  While VR glasses will never replace the intense personal joy of seeing the beautiful sunset from Negril or the breath-taking views from Mount Kilimanjaro, technological readiness to support and improve the visitor experience, to improve training methodologies and to enhance health and safety have become much more important in the industry.

The industries in the Caribbean and Africa are still playing catch up with the technology available in many of the markets which is steadily advancing to provide more cost effective and replicable services. While we would not wish to replace the genuine adventure for the visitors to our shores, our industry’s growth rests on utilizing these technologies in order to rise to higher levels of economic contribution and create more resilience from external shocks.

Much of this can be done using virtual training platforms and collaborating with each other to ensure that we share resources and best practices both in person and virtually.

Conclusion
In closing, I wish to reiterate that as Statesman in Residence at the P.J. Patterson Institute for African-Caribbean Advocacy, University of the West Indies, our role is to facilitate, support and deepen these conversations.

In our mission to advance the Economic, Social and Cultural Development of Africa the Caribbean and the Advocacy, we are seized of the importance of Tourism as a major catalyst for development and stand ready to work with our neighbours on campus and The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) in the partnership this Conference seeks to forge throughout these presentations and networking.

I hope that there will emerge from your deliberations a consensus, determined to build a strong tourism resilience framework based on cross-sectional collaboration, international funding and technical assistance, the development of comprehensive warning systems and resilience barometers.  Let us forge a strong, broad coalition of governments; private sector; bankers, hoteliers, academia and the entire diaspora – to create a mutually rewarding tourism architecture which is resilient, competitive and sustainable.

Hundreds of years ago our ancestors from the continent of Africa were transported across the first and dangerous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. None of us want to replicate the horrors of the Middle Passage.

Instead we, the descendants of those who survived on either side of that ocean owe it to future generations to ensure that this new bridge which we build is sustainable, sturdy and secure enough to withstand any future shocks to our economic prosperity. Today as we meet here in Kingston at Mona, in this seat of Global learning, we have taken a giant step towards the construction of that bridge.  

I am very privileged to have been here to witness this new dawning of collaboration and commit our support to this very important project of moving global tourism on the road to resilience, sustainability and development for the people of Africa, the Caribbean and our Diaspora.

P. J. Patterson
February 17, 2023

 


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