Resilience, Despite COVID-19
Jamaica has acted quickly to close its borders and is offering support to travel businesses that are losing business, according to the tourism minister Edmund Bartlett. He described Covid-19 as an “unprecedented event”, adding: “I have yet to find anything in history that even compares.
“This is inviting a whole new world order. Mankind must be prepared for new discussion, a new paradigm with greater levels of global collaboration. It even opens up opportunities for world peace.
“Man will have a better sense of who he or she must be – issues of love, charity and social responsibility will emerge.”
Minister Bartlett said the Jamaican response had been “based on the science” and the country had taken “strong measures” to prepare for the global Covid-19 pandemic.
These have included a public information campaign about hygiene and how to adapt behaviour to spread the virus, and a ramping-up of health programmes to address the crisis.
And Minister Bartlett said Jamaica had taken measures to control the arrival of non-citizens, a move which, as a long-time tourism official, he described as “unappealing but necessary”.
“This was done with a varied approach, starting with persons coming from countries with high incidences of the virus,” he said.
“In fact, despite Jamaica’s early adoption of border controls, its policy has fallen in line with the policies of all other later-adopting countries.”
Minister Bartlett said many commercial and business activities had come to a halt, the implications of which “requires focus”.
Support for Jamaica’s tourism businesses
Jamaica has established two support programmes for its tourism sector.
CARES is a Covid-19 cash grant provision response scheme for workers in the tourism industry, while BEST offers tourism companies access to fiscal and monetary assistance support.
The country is also providing opportunity for workers in the sector to retrain and refresh their skills ready for when the travel business comes back.
“A whole menu of monetary actions has been developed to combat the effects of the virus, from low to no-interest loans, payment deferrals and grants,” Minister Bartlett said.
“Jamaica’s tourism industry is being proactive during this period. It is working on training programmes and the identification of multi-country network tourism product development.
“Tourism is always the first industry to return [after a crisis] while other industries are still finding their feet. I want the Caribbean to be ready for the new norm.”
Impact of crisis on tourism ethics
Asked how the global travel and tourism sector might be changed by the pandemic, Minister Bartlett said: “We have been grappling with tourism ethics for a long time.
“The struggle has always been to define relationship actions, to give respect and celebrate differences. How do you enable peoples to have better respect, even for themselves, as a result of the respect of others?
“This crisis is forcing us into a new dimension of respect and regard for each other and for what differences may exist.
“One of the big takeaways from all of this will be a deep appreciation of hygiene and how to deal with the environment and, more importantly, the education and the knowledge that must be developed by everybody.
“So, we are going to see a greater sense of commitment to cleanliness and health. This will apply throughout the world, which will lead to a far more united world and greater collaboration between peoples.
“We will be able to exist better and sustain and maintain the environment in a stronger and more effective way.”
Data analytics will drive recovery
Minster Bartlett said the travel industry must ensure it has a clear vision about the situation based on scientific evidence and facts established through the proper use of data.
“Business and data will define the future of the world. The use of ‘big data’ is going to provide the ability to make good decisions and those decisions will flow from what the market is saying.
“Businesses are going to have to mobilise and create the capital to achieve the objectives of what information data is providing.
“At this moment, when everyone is isolating themselves and instructed to work from home, you can build capacity and train on the use of analytics. Data manipulation will be one of the strongest tools to help the recovery.”
And Bartlett said he believes there is also going to be a moral and ethical dimension to the recovery and the future of the travel sector.
“Businesses need wise leadership that understands how to enable the appropriate mix of hard business measures and social measures,” he said.
“Businesses absolutely must understand their social corporate responsibility now. This is the way forward because collaboration between community and business is what is going to enable it to grow and grow fast.
“Businesses will need to reinvent themselves because there is a whole disruptive process that will come now. We will see business that is far more responsive to the community and far more reflective of the will and wishes of people.
“And, most importantly, these businesses are going to help define new ways in which they will collaborate with society.
“Businesses are going to help make markets. This goes beyond the creation of product. They will need to create the markets for their own good. Without market development, they will not be able to sustain and grow. Making markets will now become a part of the business profile.”
The importance of global resilience in travel
The global pandemic has underlined the vital importance of the Resilience Council and the Resilience Centres, which Minister Bartlett co-chairs and which are being established across the globe.
He said: “We are aggregating as much data as possible from around the world. We have just hired a director of pandemics.
“Her role will be to collect and analyse all the relevant data as to how pandemics and the like affect the tourism sector.
“We will share this information with partners to assist them in managing pandemics, of which there will be more.
“By looking seriously at global analytics, we will be able to build, mine and analyse data, enabling small countries to achieve fact-based decision-making.
“The whole picture must include the building of resources, not just training and knowledge but how to convert knowledge into value, offering opportunity for prosperity and building wellbeing.
“The centres will continually focus on building resources, collecting best practices and setting up a compendium which will be available for the industry globally.”
Looking to what might emerge as the world gets to grips with Covid-19, Minister Bartlett said the world will have to learn to live with the disease.
“Life-coping techniques will be developed, and people will accept it just as any other disease. Source markets will be looked at and evaluated based on health security.
“Sometimes larger countries will be singled out for their actions, but smaller countries may be singled out for better hygiene.
“Time will do a lot in terms of defining the final arrangements as to who will travel from where to where.”
A positive vision for the future
And, in offering final thoughts on the future, Minister Bartlett struck a positive note: “The immediate future is not clear as to how quickly we bounce back and what will happen in the next two to three years.
“But if we have been successful in flattening the virus, I think we will see a return to some normalcy by the beginning of next year.
“The travel industry is resilient. New products will emerge. There are huge opportunities in aviation and hotel services and what will be on offer.
“The tourism space will expand its ability to offer a seamless experience and one that is far more responsive to hygienic practices.
“Tourism ethics will finally find its way as people relate better to each other and provide a more wholesome respect for cultures and diversity.”
About H.E. Edmund Bartlett CD, MP, Government of Jamaica
As one of the world’s leading tourism ministers, Edmund Bartlett has represented Jamaica regionally and internationally.
He chaired the Board of Affiliate Members of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and during his first tenure as tourism minister he served as Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of the UNWTO, representing the Americas.
He is the first to serve on the executive of both the public and private sector arms of this prestigious organization. Minister Bartlett has also served on the Council of Ministers for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and as Vice Chairman of CTO.
It is through Minister Bartlett’s focus and dedication to his dream of having Centres for Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management throughout the world that he opened the first Centre, in Kingston, Jamaica, under the auspices of the University of the West Indies.
The Centre opened this past year for the benefit of the travel industry globally. Other Centres are scheduled to open in Kenya, Nepal, South Africa, Morocco and several other countries.