Jamaica Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett says that for tourism to be truly sustainable there must be greater equality among all stakeholders and a more equitable distribution of tourism earnings.
He was speaking at the 110th Executive Council meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on Monday (June 17) at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. The three-day Executive Council meeting is taking place from June 16 – 18, 2019.
With revenues from international tourism totalling US$1.7 trillion in 2018 and one in 11 of the world’s jobs generated by tourism, Minister Bartlett said, “It begs the question of the distribution of this enormous wealth and the impact that it is having on the highly tourism-dependent regions of the earth.”
He noted a real concern as many of the countries that have the highest level of tourism dependence, like the Caribbean with a GDP dependence of 40% or more and the US Virgin Islands with 98.5% dependence on tourism, are characterized also by high unemployment, a high debt to GDP ratio, social concerns and high levels of income inequality.
He also pointed to statistics which indicate that 80% of global tourism is owned by Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) but less than 20% of the returns go to them.
“This is hugely disturbing and creates asymmetry and imbalance, and that picture doesn’t look so good,” Minister Bartlett said.
He said the tourism focused discussions at the UNWTO Executive Council meeting, provided “an opportunity for us to take a greater dive into understanding how this great industry of ours must impact the world in a more positive way by creating greater elements of equality, inclusiveness and most of all to build the capacity of tourism-dependent regions to not just recover and grow but to thrive”.
Minister Bartlett took the opportunity to welcome the announcement by the United States of America that it is considering returning to the UNWTO. The announcement was made earlier in the day by Ms. Emma Doyle, Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Principal Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House. “The return of the US can only help to make the Americas stronger as a tourist destination,” he noted.