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Inter-American Committee on Tourism takes on COVID-19

Inter-American Committee on Tourism takes on COVID-19

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COVID-19 has become a global crisis without discrimination for regions. Today, the Jamaica Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, addressed the OAS Inter-American Committee on Tourism in a second special meeting.

The Inter-American Committees are subsidiary organizations of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI). Their purpose is to lend continuity to the sectoral dialogue on partnership for development in a given sector, follow-up on the mandates issued at the ministerial level, and identify multilateral cooperation initiatives. The nature, purpose, structure, and functioning of each of the committees are established by their own Rules of Procedure.

These committees shall comprise the sectoral authorities at the policy-making and technical levels, accredited by the government of each member state.

The Hon. Minister Bartlett addressed the Committee by first thanking the Chairman. The transcript of his talk follows.

Introduction

The delegation of Jamaica welcomes the forward thinking nature of the agenda on the standardization of bio-sanitary protocols at the hemispheric level; the 2050 tourism agenda for the Americas; and the roadmap to accelerate the recovery of the cruise and airline industries in the post-pandemic era as a good basis for discussions.

Chair, we look forward to endorsing the proposed Declaration as national efforts remain stretched between tackling the current realities of COVID cases within our borders and charting the path ahead for a resilient and vibrant recovery of the sector and our economies.

Standardization of bio-sanitary protocols at the hemispheric level

I think we can all agree that bio-sanitary and broader health protocols are indispensable to arresting the transmission of the virus thereby paving the way for recovery. The Jamaican Government has prepared protocols for various sectors – workplace, tourism, entertainment, health – and is working assiduously to implement said protocols.

At the national level, the necessity of harmonizing these protocols is evident – they eliminate confusion and discrimination among relevant stakeholders as well as facilitate enforceable regulations.

As we zoom ahead to recovery and rejuvenate our long-term commitments and plans established pre-COVID such as multi-destination agreements, the value of standardized protocols in the region is beyond doubt. To this end, my delegation supports discussions towards this initiative.

2050 Tourism Agenda for the Americas

Standardized protocols and multi-destination agreements and products align well with a collaborative hemispheric agenda for tourism that takes us beyond our global commitments to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The hemispheric agenda should seek to build on the 2030 Agenda for which the UN Secretary General has noted that “global efforts to date have been insufficient to deliver the change we need”.

COVID-19 undoubtedly has exacerbated existing challenges in the attainment of the SDGs. However, development of an agenda with consideration for the post-pandemic era and “new normal” should further take into account the broader discussion of deepening resilience in our sectors and economies to withstand the literal and figurative storms that threaten our efforts at development.

It is for this reason that the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre was a priority for my portfolio. The Centre had been examining the various existing, emerging and potential disruptors to sustainable development, including pandemics, and was poised to serve as the resource and support for many countries in the Caribbean sub-region during this crisis.

In keeping with public awareness efforts, the GTRCMC will host a lecture on 26 August entitled geopolitics and the coronavirus: implications for global travel and tourism. Interested delegations can register at the GTRCMC website – www.gtrcmc.org or follow the livestream on the GTRCMC’s Youtube and Facebook pages.

Roadmap to accelerate the recovery of the cruise and airline industries

Already for the first quarter, international tourist arrivals (ITA) declined by 44% compared to 2019. In April, with severe restrictions on travel and border closures, ITA declined to 97%. This represents a loss of 180 million international arrivals compared to 2019 with US$198 billion lost in international tourism receipts (export revenues).

With consideration for this reality and unfolding developments, information from IATA in late July presents a revised baseline forecast for a decline in global enplanements to 55% in 2020 compared to 2019. While passenger numbers are expected to rise 62% in 2021 off the depressed 2020 base, that will still reflect a decline of 30% compared to 2019. A full recovery to 2019 levels is not expected until 2024, one year later than previously forecast.

The airline industry is poised to lose USD 84.3 billion in 2020, with airlines in Latin America and the Caribbean set to post a USD 4 billion loss. Aviation’s contribution to GDP in the region is set to shrink by USD 98 billion this year, putting 4.1 million jobs at risk.

The cruise industry generates more than USD 150 billion per year in global economic activity and supports nearly 2 million jobs worldwide. From mid-March (when suspension of cruise operations began) through end of September, the global impact will be a loss of USD 50 billion in economic activity and 334,000 jobs.

This supports our position that travel and tourism has been one of the hardest hit in this crisis. However, we are mindful that travel and tourism will play a key role in the recovery of the global economy, namely through the cruise and airline industries.

As we maintain that global public health and safety is paramount, our policies and regulations should be scientific and evidence-based, even as we treat with an unprecedented foe. To this end, our countries should reconsider travel restrictions and policies based on accurate and reliable data to facilitate resumption in air and cruise travel in a considered and safe manner.

Our governments have heard the calls from industry players for effective relief measures whether through direct financial assistance and/or regulatory relief measures. This is a challenge for most of us whose budgets are straining under the weight of stimulus and relief packages for our nationals and businesses.

Notwithstanding, these stark choices must not overshadow our own creativity and resilience to tap into innovative resources and approaches to meet the ultimate outcome – the full recovery of our economies.

Generation C (Gen-C) – the cross-section of generational profiles unified by this unprecedented pandemic – could present one such opportunity if countries can understand the profile and behaviour of this emerging traveller and harness that information for targeted marketing to ensure an enthusiastic market when travel restrictions fall.

Conclusion

Time will not permit for an exhaustion of ideas and approaches to confront and surmount this crisis. In this regard, my delegation stands ready to contribute to the process, including serving on the relevant technical working groups to expand on the articulation of the standardized bio-sanitary protocols and the 2050 hemispheric tourism agenda.

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