As the global marketplace wrestles with the 40 per cent GDP loss in tourism and travel brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett has called for a new tourism investment thrust to recover from the fallout.
Prior to the pandemic outbreak in 2019, tourism accounted for 10 per cent of global GDP, provided 11 per cent of jobs and more than 20 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI), especially in highly tourism-dependent regions like the Caribbean. However, in 2021, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated tourism’s contribution to GDP had fallen to six per cent and jobs down 333 million from approximately 400 million. Tourism expenditure was US$9 trillion resulting from 1.4 billion tourists travelling across the world for vacations.
In one of his several presentations to major tourism and travel stakeholders at the International Tourism Investment Conference held in the margins of the annual World Travel Market (WTM) in London, Bartlett indicated that more than 70 million jobs were lost, and investment will assist greatly in restoring and creating new ones.
He referenced his home destination, Jamaica, as a country which has recovered very well in visitor arrivals and stopovers, with increased revenue intake. His argument was further emboldened by the fact that Jamaica currently is on the verge of harnessing new investments from more than 12,000 new hotel rooms over the next three years. Together with new attractions, these will bring sustainable growth to the local economy.
Bartlett also called for industry investment to focus more on the supply side of the tourism equation, such as food and beverages, household goods, cultural products, furnishings and renewable energy, citing these as keys inputs which drive the consumption patterns of tourism and enable a higher level of earnings retention in the local economies.
He posited that the new tourism investment thrust must impact the environment, the social development of community and the economic well-being of the country. This, he contends, is the formula for sustainability and resilience in the very important tourism sector.