Jamaican minister of tourism Edmund Bartlett has welcomed delegates to the Montego Bay Convention Centre for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Global Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism.
With more than 1,300 delegates registered to attend over three days, the event will be the largest of its kind ever to take place in the Caribbean.
“It is a tremendous honour and privileged to open this event; the first of its kind in the Caribbean and, indeed, in the world,” minister Bartlett told delegates.
Over the course of the event, delegates will examine future of the Caribbean as a tourism destination, with a focus on creating jobs for a new generation of workers.
There are representatives from more than 60 nations in attendance, as well as from partners including the World Travel & Tourism Council, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank Group, and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
“Tourism is critical to the success of the Caribbean and it is essential we are able to exploit the advantages we have here in the region,” minister Bartlett added.
Topics up for discussion over the coming days include an examination of the role of public-private partnerships, international best practice in the hospitality sector, the role of international finance, and the importance of donor funding in developing tourism.
At the end of three days, minister Bartlett is seeking to present a global agenda for sustainable tourism development and a consensus on how to promote tourism as a catalyst for economic growth.
The conference is part of the UNWTO-sponsored International Year of Sustainable Tourism.
“This conference sits perfectly within the global focus on sustainability,” minister Bartlett said.
The first day of the event will focus on tourism in the Caribbean.
“The question of sustainability is more of an urgent concern, for smaller, tourism dependent states, like those in the Caribbean,” minister Bartlett explained.
“The Caribbean is the single most tourism dependant region in the world.”
Minster Bartlett pointed out of that tourism is the largest industry in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean, making the sector vital for the economic success of the region.
But this industry is under threat.
“The Caribbean is at the forefront of the impact of major environmental disasters, especially climate change,” minister Bartlett added.
“To these disasters, of course, we in the Caribbean contributed the least.”
He also pointed to Hurricane Irma, which swept the region earlier this year, taking a high toll on tourism infrastructure in a number of markets.
The Global Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth will seek to forge consensus on how to overcome the multifaceted challenges presented by a changing climate, starting in the Caribbean.