Jamaica to open tourism logistics centre
WITH THE pandemic disrupting human capital in the tourist industry, Jamaica will be forced to establish a Tourism Logistics Supply Centre in the island’s Special Economic Zone to meet the fast pace recovery it is now experiencing.
After two and a half years of no travel in what tourism minister Edmund Bartlett has described as ‘entre-pause’, the island’s arrival numbers are at 72 per cent of the pre-pandemic era, but many of the country’s workers shifted to other sectors, some migrating, causing a void in the system.
Aiming to cauterise what could become a tremendous hurdle to growth, Bartlett told hotel managers, sales directors and attraction operators at a Jamaica Tourist Board Public Relations Update Session at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Wednesday that recovery was now a challenge.
He said the new demographic, ‘Generation COVID’, was now emerging, and is going to be defined in a different way, one that requires a response to passions that are different from what they were accustomed to before.
“Our destination has to respond to that quickly, or we lose the opportunity and the choices,” he admitted to the large group of stakeholders who are facing the challenges head-on.
“The establishment of a Tourism Logistics Supply Centre, through our special economic zone, will allow us the opportunities for these supplies that are required, which will be available to us here in Jamaica, then to the rest of the region.”
Bartlett said he is putting in place the ability to respond quickly to the huge recovery that is coming, because that rate of recovery will appear by 2023 to 2024, and Jamaica will be back and beyond, but, where the supplies are to be had, is not immediately visible.
Acknowledging that the country may not get back 100 per cent of the workers it desires, Bartlett noted that encouragement may inspire them to return to the industry. Pointing out that the world has never had this before, neither has tourism, he is urging all stakeholders to band together and make this happen, so they and the country can thrive.
With eyes set on growth, the tourism minister promised that growth will include not only human capital, but social development in the community space, growth in terms of accommodation and room inventory, and improvement in experiential products, strengthening of relationships and new stories to tell.
“We are recovering with an expectation from our guests of having the same level, if not higher levels of experiences, when the capacity to do so is being affected by the disruptions. So the response has to be to ramp up quickly the capacity to develop the supply capabilities, which in our case is the establishment of the centre,” he told The Gleaner after his presentation.
Hoping to propose this idea at the upcoming World Free Zones Conference, which is being staged June 13-17 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Bartlett said the tourism logistics facilities, once built in the zones, can enable supply of production goods, to be available to Jamaica and the rest of the region.
“That way we will be building a new income stream and new skill set for our people. They can now be part of tourism, not just by working in a hotel or in an attraction, but in a logistics centre.”