An index that will provide valuable data on everything from visitors’ safety to how attractive a destination is to investors is one of the big ticket items on the agenda for the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMG) which has emerged, post-pandemic, as a force to be reckoned with. And if Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has his way, the index will eventually be used to measure the performance of not just countries but also businesses within the industry.
“One of the key areas… that we’re looking at, is to build a resilience barometer to measure the level of resilience of a country, and indeed a destination and, in the end, a hotel or an attraction,” Bartlett told the Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com. He is co-chair and founder of the centre.
He likened the resilience gauge to the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness index, explaining that data used in compiling the guide could potentially include factors such as the level of training achieved by employees within the sector; how technologically savvy a country is; and even as granular as standards for the construction of buildings.
“A number of these touch points will be thought through and we put measures to them… to analyse and determine the level and strength of resilience of a country in the same way that sustainability measures are being done based on… environmental practices, and green applications and so on. It is the same way that we want to do for resilience,” he said.
“I think that this will be a very important tool that we will offer to the world so that good decisions can be made; choices made as to where do you go? Where do you invest? Where do you travel to? When do you fly? And where do you fly. All of that is going to be important, but what it also will do is to give a level of confidence that, ‘Yes, there are going to be disruptions. But if it happens, this country I’m going to is able to manage to withstand, to recover and recover quickly. And chances are, I will not be hurt, damaged or even lose my life’,” the minister added.
The index is just one aspect of the work being done by the GTRCMG through working groups mushrooming across the world. The headquarters is at The University of the West Indies, Mona, where it all began. Four centres are to be added around the globe over the next three months, taking the total to 10 by the end of the year, Bartlett said.
Pointing out that there have been about 12 major global disruptions that have affected tourism in last 50 years, the minister spoke of the importance of forecasting these events, mitigating their impact, managing them effectively, recovering and then being able to thrive afterwards. Even for larger economies, he said, it is a challenge to thrive after a disruption pummels the tourism sector.
“We have determined that what is needed… is a level of academic rigour, to get young people across the world to be focusing on how to add value, how to innovate, how to be able to pivot and to adapt to these changes that are taking place. How do you use the technology now, that is there, the digital technology — the knowledge age, as we call it — to enable value added, to be able to respond faster and quicker,” he explained.
The Mona headquarters has a small team but pulls in experts to work on projects as needed.
“The exchange of ideas and technical expertise is a big item for us. We have been meeting and talking virtually, initially, with our centres that we’ve established. It’s a whole new arrangement of brilliant young people that are now scattered across the globe, who can focus on resilience and look at toolkits, best practices to mine data then to analyse the data and to present information that can guide management decisions in the tourism sector,” said Bartlett.
In addition to factors to be explored for the resilience index, the centre also has plans to look at creating tools to deal with disruptions caused by cybercrime, terrorism as well as economic and political upheaval.
“One of the things that the centre is needing is partnership now in terms of building out the hardware and software that is required for much of this analytic work that we’re talking about and the research that is to be done. So we are in the process of engaging multilateral and other partners to enable us to deliver on these critical areas,” said Bartlett.
For example, he is excited at the prospect of a centre being established in the Maldives, to cover the Indian Ocean rim which is susceptible to climate change. Centres are also in the works for Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, along with Nigeria and South Africa. They will join those already up and running in George Brown College in Canada; Florida International University; Beaumont University in London; the University of the Middle East in Jordan; University of Kenyatta in Kenya; and UWI, Mona.
The tourism minister explained that while the GTRCMG does not provide financial assistance, its strength is in highlighting issues that need to be addressed and pulling together the resources required to effect change.
“First of all, you leverage the support you have outside of the region to provide assistance. And we also, in some instance, provided technical support,” said Bartlett. “We are not able to fund any activity because of the resource constraints that the centre has at the moment. But we think that we can leverage the larger entities of the world and to bring focus on what is happening locally. One of the strong points of ours is communication and our ability to bring attention to what is happening in areas of the world.”
He cited work the centre did when Malaysia was hit by a recent tsunami, work done in Ceylon, and in Mumbai after a terrorist attack, as well as in Sri Lanka. The centre has also had an impact at the regional level.
“When there are events, whether it be seismic or it is weather related or it is based on volcanic activity… the centre reaches out… to the global community… to focus on what is happening in our local space and to seek support for it. For example, we were able to respond with St Vincent, when they had the volcano. We have been in touch and worked with Haiti when they had the last earthquake and difficulty there; with The Bahamas when they had the heavy hurricane that hit, and so on. And we have also worked with MIT and with a group out of France on the Sargassum issues that were affecting all of us here in the Caribbean,” said Bartlett.
He noted that the centre’s biggest success so far, however, is undoubtedly the concept of resilience corridors used to keep visitors and employees safe during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Read more about the centre and the work it is doing here.