Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Nestor Mendez, says establishment of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, in the Caribbean, is not only vital but also “very timely.”
He was addressing the official launch of the Centre, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in Rose Hall, St. James, on January 30.
Mr. Mendez said the centre, being opened just a short 14 months since the adoption of the Montego Bay Declaration, following the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference on sustainable growth in November 2017, is nothing short of remarkable.
“It is not just a remarkable achievement but also a testament to the hard work and determination of the Government of Jamaica,” Mr. Mendez told the audience.
“I must commend the leadership shown by the Government of Jamaica and indeed Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, in the establishment of the centre, which was a mandate of the Declaration of Montego Bay in 2017,” he added.
The Declaration was officially presented by Mr. Bartlett, and Executive Director of the UNWTO, Carlos Vogeler.
Among the key elements of the Declaration is a call for support of the establishment of a Global Tourism Resilience Centre in the Caribbean, including a Sustainable Tourism Observatory, to assist destinations’ preparedness, management and recovery from crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods.
Mr. Mendez said that while travel and tourism contributes to more than 10 per cent of world output and nearly 10 per cent of employment worldwide, the sector nevertheless remains vulnerable to threats, challenges, and disruptions of various sorts, especially in relation to climate change and natural disasters.
These disruptions, he said, almost always have the potential to stymie growth and prosperity in the region.
“It is of particular significance that the Centre is being established here in the Caribbean, as the Caribbean tourism sector is often the victim of the Atlantic hurricanes, which invariably leads to temporary and permanent closure of hotels and ancillary businesses,” Mr. Mendez said.
He said the OAS has long recognised, with grave concern, that the Latin American and Caribbean region represents one of the most vulnerable regions in the world, due to the adverse impact of climate change.
“For the OAS, the issue of resilience remains a critical one. The organization has played an integral role in supporting efforts to enhance resilience in the tourism sector in the Caribbean for many years,” Mr. Mendez noted.
In the aftermath of the destructive 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean, which saw destruction caused by hurricanes Maria in Dominica and Puerto Rico and Irma in the island of Barbuda, the OAS, at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., hosted a meeting with Caribbean leaders and international business mogul, Sir Richard Branson, as well as several international institutions and private sector officials.
“This meeting sought to put together a broad-based multi-sector coalition to mobilise private sector funding of climate change resilience initiatives in the region, as the foundation for urgent action,” Mr. Mendez explained.
“The OAS remains committed to supporting resilience efforts in the region, including this initiative to establish the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre,” he added