Endorsed by UNWTO: First Tourism Innovation Centre in the America – The Transcript

The Star in the Global Travel and Tourism Industry today is from Jamaica and no other than Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of Tourism. The Hon. Edmund Bartlett made his presentation at the ongoing 63rd UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas and the International Seminar on Women’s Empowerment in the Tourism Sector in Paraguay. The UNWTO Conference is being held in conjunction withthe  National Secretariat of Tourism of Paraguay (SENATUR).

A tireless effort was put in by the former UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai together with Minister Bartlett. and the scene set last year in November with the Montego Bay declaration after concluding the very successful UWWTO Global Conference on Jobs and inclusive growth in Jamaica. Minister Jamaica hosted the event.

The Montego Bay declaration highlighted the need for climate change mitigation and improving crisis preparedness, including a commitment among Caribbean countries to work toward more regional integration and to support a Global Tourism Resilience Center in Jamaica, including a Sustainable Tourism Observatory to help in preparedness, management, and recovery from crises.

This morning at the Regional Commission for the Americas meeting Minister Bartlett made his presentation on establishing and hosting the first Tourism Innovation Centre in the Americas.  A first conference is planned in Montego Bay in 2019.
The current UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvil continued to voice UNWTO’s support for a regional center.

Here is a transcript of the presentation made today by the Jamaica Minister and now endorsed and supported by the Regional Commission of the Americas at UNWO


In the last two decades, many destinations around the world have faced several external threats and internal challenges (together disruptions), which undermine their ability to fully achieve their objectives and potential. These disruptions include, among other things, climate change and natural disasters, cybercrime and cyber-security, epidemics and pandemics, as well as terrorism and wars.

Epidemics and Pandemics

The threat of epidemics and pandemics has been an ever-present reality for tourism due to the nature of the sector which involves international travel and close contact between millions of people. The threat has however become significantly more pronounced over the last two decades.

The world today is hyper connected with the current volume, speed, and reach of travel being unprecedented. Almost 4 billion trips were taken by air just last year alone. The threat of epidemics and pandemics extends beyond the tourism sector and remains a major threat to both health and human security. This has forced the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to declare pandemics to be global security issues and a Future Global Shock; appealing to countries to commit to higher political and budgetary prioritization of pandemics to promote human security in the same way defense and military expenditures, for example, are prioritized to promote state security.

A 2008 report by the World Bank, warned that a global pandemic that lasts a year could trigger a major global recession while concluding that the economic losses would come not from sickness or death but from what the World Bank calls “efforts to avoid infection”: reducing air travel, avoiding travel to infected destinations, and reducing consumption of services such as restaurant dining, tourism, mass transport, and nonessential retail shopping.

Climate Change and Natural Disasters

Climate change is now the most imminent threat facing the tourism sector and the wider Caribbean region. Warmer temperatures are raising sea levels and producing longer hurricane seasons with stronger and more severe storms. More intense droughts are drying up water resources, vegetation.

and agricultural yields. Rising sea levels are also destroying coastlines, sands, mangroves and eroding beaches. Just last year the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria inflicted tremendous damages to 13 of the most tourism-dependent countries in the region including St. Martin, Anguilla, Dominica, Barbuda, St.Barts, The British Virgin Islands, The US Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Some territories experienced damage to over 90% of their infrastructure.

Forecasts suggest that the cost of inaction in the Caribbean will amount to 22% of GDP by 2100 and 75% of GDP for some of the more vulnerable economies. This indeed spells a problem for the future of Caribbean economies if the intensity of climate change is not reversed.

Terrorism and Wars

While Jamaica has never faced any serious radical terrorism, we now operate in a new normal where we must be prepared for any eventuality. Recent terrorist attacks in tourist destinations such as Barcelona, Paris, Nice, Tunisia, Egypt, Bohol in the Philippines, Turkey, Las Vegas, Florida and Bali in Indonesia and Algeria have shown that no destination is safe from terror attacks. Increasingly, the radical elements fueling global terrorism are becoming geographically dispersed and are recruiting members from all over the world.

Destination security must become an urgent priority of global tourism players. A serious terror attack can cause significant damage to destination attractiveness, divert itineraries from the affected destinations, undermine future travel and destabilize the affected country’s economy.

Cyber-crimes and Cyberwars

Finally, we currently operate in a highly digitalized world where we are now forced to protect visitors and indeed citizens from both tangible and intangible threats. The digital space has become the marketplace for the tourism industry. Destination research, bookings, reservations, room service and vacation shopping are conducted online via credit card payments. Security no longer means protecting tourists against physical threats but also means protecting people against cyber threats (internet fraud, identity theft, etc.) It is however true that most tourist destinations in the region have no backup plan in the event of cyber-attacks.

While the tourism sector has traditionally been very resilient, the sector is also one of the most vulnerable to these disruptions. In the last two decades, several organizations have also attempted to address some of these concerns, however no one organization exists to holistically provide strategic and operations relations solutions. The absence of such an entity undermines the ability of global destinations to maximize their tourism. This no doubt has wider implications for achieving the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals. Ensuring the resilience of the sector is thus critical to protecting and promoting the well-being of millions of citizens around the world.

The Global Centre for Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management will be called to operate in a global context that is characterized by not only new challenges, but also new opportunities to improve the tourism product as well as to ensure the sustainability of tourism globally. This Centre represents hope and assured continuity of tourism as a local and regional product and as a global enterprise.


The aforementioned goal will be achieved through the following objectives:

1. Research and Capacity Building

a. Provide real-time and accurate information related to existing and possible or potential disruptions/risks to destinations;

b. Provide communication, marketing and branding assistance to destinations hit by disruptions/disasters, towards rapid recovery;

c. Provide business intelligence and data analytics information to destinations;

d. Provide policy solutions to governments, international organizations, civil societies and the businesses related to tourism resilience; and

e. Undertake cutting-edge research related to current and potential disruptions or risks to destinations and, to develop mitigation strategies to address these disruptions and risks.

2. Advocacy

a. Provide policy solutions to government, international organizations, civil societies and the businesses related to tourism resilience.

b. Lobby international organizations and all stakeholders to become a part of global thrusts towards tourism resilience and crisis management.

c. Source funding and/or developmental opportunities to improve the quality of the output of regional hotel training institutes such as HEART in Jamaica. This is to ensure sustainability of the tourism industry through improving brand quality. One of the major threats to tourism resilience is the quality of the human capital within the sector.

d. Ensure that organizations honour their commitments made by applying strategic methods of advocacy.

3. Project/Programme Management

a. Plan and implement crisis management systems that will reduce the impact of disasters;

b. Assist the recovery efforts of countries affected by disasters;

c. Monitor the recovery efforts of countries affected by a crisis;

d. Undertake cutting-edge research related to current and potential disruptions or risks to destinations and, to develop mitigation strategies to address these disruptions and risks;

e. Provide training and capacity building in tourism resilience and crisis management;

f. Train and build the capacity of its members in the following areas:

i. Researchers

ii. Crisis and Risk Management Analysts

iii. Tourism Resilience Experts

iv. Tourism Resilience Advocates

v. The Centre will also provide (1) research fellowship opportunity for individuals seeking to either expand their knowledge or gain experience in tourism resilience and crisis management through postdoctoral research, and (2) internships for undergraduate and graduate students in fields of study related to tourism resilience and crisis management;

g. Provide policy solutions to government, international organizations, civil societies and the businesses related to tourism resilience;

h. Host tourism resilience and crisis management forums, conferences, and public discussions geared towards bringing the specialists and experts together to share knowledge and strategies on how to be more resilient and more optimal on managing risks.

4. Monitoring and Evaluation Unit

The Centre will also provide Monitoring and Evaluation services through a Monitoring and Evaluation Unit. This unit will primarily be responsible for the non-stop monitoring of all things related to the tourism sector. The unit will be responsible for the global and regional audit of the tourism sector in an effort to identify seemingly smaller problems that have the potential to cripple the industry as well as unforeseen problems that lack the expert attention. This makes the sector more resilient by providing forecast and foresight. This unit will therefore operate like a watchtower or a lighthouse for tourism globally.

The monitoring thrust of this unit will also be geared towards training individuals to participate in tourism conferences such as the UNWTO conference held in Montego Bay recently, tourism seminars and discussions as well asto keep abreast of the activities, actions, policies and commitments of all core stakeholders of the tourism sector. This unit will establish a global database of all the proposed, committed and ongoing projects or activities by all these stakeholders – essentially a Global Tourism To-Do List. By doing this, the Centre is able to better advocate and lobby stakeholders by reminding them of their commitments as well as to provide information to interested individuals or organizations. This will help to globally streamline tourism activities as well as create a sense of uniformity in global tourism activities.

The Monitoring and Evaluation aspect of the Centre will also take the form of a Virtual Tourism Observatory. Similar, to the European Union Tourism Observatory, this observatory.

aims to support policy makers and businesses develop better strategies for a more competitive global tourism sector.

The Virtual Tourism Observatory will provide access to a broad collection of information, data and analysis on current trends in the tourism sector. The Observatory will therefore be available for the access of all persons who are interested in data on tourism in any country/region. This observatory will enhance academic scholarship by including the latest available figures on the sector’s trends and volumes, economic and environmental impact, and the origin and profile of tourists. The observatory will partner with other similar organizations globally.

The observatory will contain the following information/data:

 Country Tourism Profiles.

 Tourism statistics with user-friendly and interactive manipulative functions which allows users to access graphs and charts, and to manipulate the data to produce measures of central tendencies and minimal bivariate analysis.

 Studies and reports from all around the world that are related to tourism.

 Travel advisories for all regions.

 Best tourist hotspots and attractions for all regions.


The Centre will be staffed by internationally recognized experts and professionals in the fields of climate management, project management, tourism management, tourism risk management, tourism crisis management, communication management, tourism marketing and branding as well as monitoring and evaluation.

 The Centre will be headed by a Director who shall be responsible for the overall management of the Centre and for providing the operational, organizational, and institutional direction of the Centre.

 The Director will be assisted by three (3) Programme Offices.

o Programme Office – Advocacy

o Programme Officer – Research and Capacity Building

o Programme Officer – Projects

o Monitoring and Evaluation Officers

 The Director and Programme Officers will form part of the Board of Directors. The rest of the board shall be invited to serve based on recommendations made from the Ministry of Tourism, The University of the West Indies, and other stakeholder groups.

 The board will be assisted by Researchers, Crisis and Risk Management Analysts, Tourism Resilience Experts, and Tourism Resilience Advocates who will all work towards achieving the objectives of the Centre.


The Centre will be housed at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus (UWI). The Campus has two locations in Jamaica – Montego Bay and Kingston. Founded in 1948, the University of the West Indies is a world-class, accredited higher education institution which engages in research and development designed to support the social and economic growth of the Caribbean region.

The University has a mission to advance learning, create knowledge and foster innovation for the positive transformation of the Caribbean and the wider world. This Mission of the University coincides perfectly with the specific goals of this institute as it provides a platform, through this centre of excellence, to further the university’s mandate of fostering innovation and positive transformation through tourism resilience and development.

Being home to some of the brightest minds, scholars, and researchers from across the region and beyond, the University will appropriately house the Centre providing a natural and ready pool of

resources from which the Centre can access excellent human resource to buttress its efforts. The UWI also provides an environment for partnerships between and among other already established

and streamlined international institutes in the process of sharing knowledge, strategies, and expertise towards achieving the ultimate objectives of the Centre. The University boasts a 8 | P a g e

world-class reputation that will enhance the credibility of the Centre in a symbiotic way as the Centre will also, in its operations, enhance the overall mission and vision of the University.


The Centre has been established at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. We are currently in the process of staffing the Centre as well as building partnerships towards the development of our project profile. Thus far, we have successfully engaged the following entities:

 Bournemouth University, England

 Campari

 Carnival Cruise Line

 The University of Queensland, Australia

 Digicel

We are also in the process of examining the following global projects on climate action:

1. Global comparative study that explores tourists’ attitudes towards environmental conservation and climate change when traveling.

2. Global comparative study that explores attitudes towards Climate Change.

3. Cross national study that explores resilience and adaptation strategies in response to climate change.

4. Registration.

5. Financing.

6. Summit – Saturday, September 22, 2018.