Natural disasters, climate change impact, biodiversity loss, food security, political instability, recession, and cybercrime are among the critical issues to take centrestage at the upcoming Global Tourism Resilience Conference in Jamaica.

The international event has attracted seven tourism ministers from Africa, another eight from the Caribbean and technocrats from the Middle East, and is set to disrupt the capital city of Kingston from February 15-17, 2023.

Former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, who heads the Africa Caribbean Institute at The University of the West Indies, Mona, is slated to make the keynote address at the event, which will be staged on the campus.

Addressing the media at the official launch Thursday morning from the offices of the Ministry of Tourism, Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, described the event as a convergence of tourism discussions relating primarily to having joint action, collaboration, and to create a new path for tourism activities between the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“The seven African ministers are from Botswana, Rwanda, Nigeria, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Kenya, as well as a delegation from Saudi Arabia,” stated Bartlett.

The conference will also bring together aficionados and technical teams, as well as theoreticians, academics, investment gurus, as well as other tourism interests. More than 40 international speakers will address about 200-in-person attendees, as well as a wider virtual audience.

“We are also expecting the minister of international affairs from Saudi Arabia to be part of the discussions also, as the Middle East discussions will also be infused in that general debate. Our prime minister, Andrew Holness, will have a very special session at this conference, in which he will in fact, engage with Peter Greenberg of CVS TV and radio to have a fireside talk,” Bartlett said.

The first ever Global Tourism Resilience Conference will cover areas of sustainability investment, and the various areas that are part of the mosaic of connectivity that enables tourism.

The tourism minister said the intention is to enable a conference of ideas and thoughts to be reflected in action that will help the tourism and the global community to respond better, to global shocks and disruptions.

“While travel and tourism have been traditionally considered one of the most resilient segments of the global economy, it has also proven to be simultaneously and disproportionately prone to shocks due to the impact of disruptive events, and perceptions of destination attractiveness, and security,” Bartlett said.

He indicated that the inclusion of an investment component in the conference, along with a discussion on the future of employment in the tourism sector, are critical factors as they underpin the resilience that they seek to build for tourism against these global shocks.

“Connecting Africa and the Caribbean, for example, for tourism sustainability is a key factor here. Africa’s ecological and geographical characteristics, as well as this geographical location have been defined as major factors contributing to its own volatility within that continent,” he said.

“Many African destinations have traditionally and more intensely, since the emergence of the climate change phenomenon experienced exaggerated risks associated with droughts, earthquakes, floods, cyclones, food insecurity, biodiversity loss, population displacement, and disease outbreaks,” Bartlett added.

The COVID-19 pandemic he said has further compounded the inherent vulnerabilities of African tourism. “As recorded just for statistical purposes, there is a 75-per-cent decline in tourist arrivals in Africa in 2020, and an estimated $120 billion loss in the contribution to the GDP of the continent. This translates to over five times the loss in receipts, recorded in 2009, during the global economic and financial crisis, and that’s a very important point of reflection,” he argued.