By Executive Chairman, Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart
“There is no doubt that the pandemic united us.
While disarming ourselves of competitive tensions we had to focus on the big picture at all times. It was probably the first time in modern-day travel that we were all in the same boat, unified. Through that unification we were able to solve momentous problems and build back the most far-reaching sector of our country, tourism.
There was tremendous public and private sector collaboration where the answers we sought were centred around the greater good for all.
There was also incredible collaboration at the highest levels involving the World Travel & Tourism Council, Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association and others which transcended all the way down to regional tourism towns. However, with the natural course of things, people fall back to the routines and responsibilities of life at hand, personal journeys as well as running and building their businesses. But the truth is we cannot afford to lose the unity we had, because together we can make bold transformative steps.
It is so critical that we do not lose sight of the collaborative spirit that existed.
Why? Because while some countries have emerged in good standing, having taken bold decisions during the pandemic, there are others which still have some ‘heavy lifting’ to do.
In my view, an opportunity in the tourism sector in Jamaica is expansion in villa communities and European Plan concept boutique hotels, locally owned and operated. Also, expansion in indigenously owned suppliers to the tourism market, across all categories. This in addition to foreign investment boutique hotels as well as more premium brands and premium experiences to yield higher average daily rates and ultimately attract customers with greater discretionary spending ability.
Jamaica is not the only tourism product in the world and many are retooling and reinventing. We, therefore, need to ensure that we stay in a leadership position.
In our journey to remain leaders, we need to be bold to fix the things that are just not good enough. I also think we need to be obsessed about everything that is great in Jamaica and then make it greater. We need to celebrate street festivals in tourism towns… make them spotless with amazing curb appeal. We must distinguish the things we do well, the things that make up a truly authentic experience — our reggae festivals, street food experiences like pan chicken, peanuts and sugar cane — amplify them and make them better and better.
We need to provide customers with a highly experiential, safe and welcoming environment because they travel to destinations where they have the greatest experiences on and off resort.
Looking to the wider Caribbean, we have to be mindful that our visitors go where it is easiest to get to, on an airplane. Customers always choose the path of least resistance. They need flights — specifically, direct flights. Unfortunately, airlift on the whole to this region has not really increased, it has shifted. The reality is that countries that did not make bold decisions when they needed to do so have suffered. They have seen the domino effect and consequences of losing demand on the global playing field and ultimately losing airlift and other elements vital to a healthy tourism ecosystem.
How do we recover from this? How do we become a resilient regional destination that can go head to head with any other in the world?
It is time to come together to find solutions to the challenges that impact us all, as a region. We did it before; surely we can do it again.”