Local population must benefit from sustainable tourism, says Jamaican minister

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Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett giving the welcome at the introductory session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) Global Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on November 27. Photo: Garwin Davis

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — Jamaica’s minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said it is important that Caribbean states understand that sustainable tourism must mean inclusive growth that will expand economic benefits to the local population.

He was addressing delegates and stakeholders at the introductory session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Global Conference on Sustainable Growth at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Monday.

“The tourism sector must not only generate prosperity and wealth for large hotel owners and service providers but must also help to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the islands,” he argued.

“It must also strengthen linkages with other sectors of the economy, particularly the agricultural and manufacturing sectors; strengthen the benefits derived from the industry by local residents and communities; and promote broader participation by all Caribbean nationals,” the minister added.

Bartlett’s comments echoed a similar sentiment expressed by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne earlier this month in an interview with Caribbean News Now.

“I don’t think the [all inclusive] model is working very well for us. I call it the ‘all exclusive’ model because what it does is exclude everyone but the shareholders, so it is more of an all exclusive model because they just don’t support the local economy,” Browne said.

Bartlett suggested that Caribbean governments must seek to make community tourism a priority, noting that it is a value-added component that should never be underestimated or taken for granted.

“Jamaica’s National Community Tourism Policy and Strategy, for example, envisions an invigorated tourism sector in communities that enriches quality of life through social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits; exemplifies sustainable livelihoods, and strengthens Jamaica’s national policy values and interests,” the minister pointed out.

Bartlett explained that the government’s community tourism initiatives aim to ensure that tourism enterprises return economic, cultural, social and environmental benefits to the communities in which they operate.

“We have also established our Tourism Linkages Network, which has a mandate of promoting sustainable tourism development in Jamaica by developing and strengthening sustainable linkages between the tourism sector and other productive sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, manufacturing and the creative industries, including entertainment,” he added.

The minister also pointed to Jamaica’s Tourism Linkages Council, which is made up of public- and private-sector partners who oversee the coordination and implementation of effective and sustainable strategies that strengthen and facilitate linkages.

“If Caribbean tourism intends to be globally competitive, we must find ways to unlock new sources of competitiveness,” he stressed.

“One approach would be to diversify our offerings to attract new markets. International travellers have become far more demanding and have higher expectations of the destinations to which they travel or intend to travel,” the minister added.

Bartlett noted that international tourism trends are showing a shift from the traditional ‘sun, sea and sand’ towards interactive experiential tourism, one of tourism’s fastest-growing subsectors, appealing to markets interested in gastronomy, nature, heritage and cultural experiences in the destinations they choose.

The Caribbean tourism sector must position itself to tap into these markets that constitute the future of global tourism, he said.

The UNWTO Global Conference on ‘Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism’, runs from November 27 to 29. More than 1,300 delegates have been registered for what is being billed as the biggest tourism conference ever to be held in the Americas.

JIS contributed to this report

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