Jamaica will host the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference this November at its Montego Bay Convention Center.
It is the first such event held in the Americas. Jamaica has also recently announced major cruise initiatives.
“Tourism is indeed the number one industry in the world today,” said Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Honorable Edmund Bartlett, at a press conference held in New York on Tuesday June 6.
Among key agenda points will be cutting down on what the Minister called tourism leakage.
“Many countries still lag behind in benefitting from tourism,” he said. “We must capture the tourism dollar. A report done in 2014 suggested that as much as 80 percent of tourism expenditure leaks out of host countries annually.”
Key world leaders, tourism stakeholders, cruise line executives, and hotel and air executives are expected to attend, along with the World Bank, which has partnered with Jamaica to broaden the event to include new topics such as economic development, financial management, job creation and human capital development.
“Tourism is really our livelihood in the Caribbean,” said Hugh Riley secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization which has thrown its support behind the event. “We need to care more about the quality of the experience and the quality of the training we have. We have to care more about the product development in the Caribbean and the sustainability of the industry for our children and grandchildren.”
Bartlett wants the event to discuss threats to sustainable development and identify opportunities for government to work on policy.
“Second, we want to prepare small and medium tourism entrepreneurs to develop sustainable business models that will attract traditional and non-traditional funding,” he continued. “Third, we want to expand tourism templates to generate economic growth and decrease tourism leakage. And fourth, to establish a dynamic framework for public-private partnership.”
Among upcoming challenges: building out airports to accommodate bigger planes shuttling in tourists from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as putting budget into port infrastructure to accommodate a record orderbook of large cruise ships.
Bartlett also stated that tourism as a sector receiving the most foreign direct investment (FDI), adding that the Caribbean has a higher proportion of total employment and percentage of GDP derived from tourism than any other region in the world.
The conference will conclude with the Draft Montego Bay Declaration, which will be an action plan of sorts for tourism destinations to follow.
Another feature of the conference will be the presentation of the Caribbean Legends Awards in the categories of Land, Sea and Air. They will be given to individuals that have made an indelible mark on the tourism industry, not just regionally, but globally, enhancing the Caribbean brand.
The event is scheduled for November 27-29, 2017