Tourism risks being viewed as a preserve of the elite, says Jamaican minister

Tourism risks being viewed as a preserve of the elite, says Jamaican minister

By Derrick Scott

WASHINGTON USA — Jamaica’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett says, despite massive growth projections for global travel and tourism, the small and medium tourism enterprises in tourism-dependent nations have yet to reap the full benefits tourism ought to provide.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett delivers the keynote address at the World Bank Group’s Tourism Knowledge Exchange, at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington DC. Photo: Derrick Scott

“As we observe tourism’s impact on the global economy and celebrate the contribution this sector makes in providing one in eleven jobs, we must also question why 80 percent of tourism expenditure leaks out of the host countries,” Bartlett declared.

“The fact is… we can no longer only be concerned with tourism’s overall economic growth, be it on a global, regional and even national scale. Growth that does not reach a wide-cross section of the population; that does not do its job to alleviate poverty; and does not enrich people’s lives and future in all communities, runs the risk of being viewed as only for the elite — the scant top two percent of the population,” the tourism minister said.

Bartlett’s comments came last month, as he delivered the main address at the Tourism Knowledge Exchange, sponsored by the World Bank Group, at its headquarters in Washington DC.

Quoting the recently released World Travel & Tourism Council’s Benchmarking Report 2017, Bartlett said, “The global tourism sector directly sustains twice as many jobs as the financial sector and five times as many jobs in the chemicals sector.”

He pointed out that, according to the report, “Global Travel & Tourism is forecast to grow 4.0 percent per year over the next ten years while the global economy grows at 2.7 percent. In the Americas alone, there are 42.7 million jobs in tourism, larger than banking, chemicals manufacturing, automotive manufacturing and mining.”

“These findings are incredible and the numbers speak for themselves in the power of global tourism and its unstoppable growth,” Bartlett said.

However, he noted, “while all indicators hail the rapid growth and scale of the tourism powerhouse, the true reality is that in many instances, the small and medium tourism enterprises in tourism-dependent nations are not reaping the full benefits tourism ought to provide.“

The Jamaican tourism minister observed that “if tourism accounts for more than 10 percent of global GDP and 30 percent of the world’s trade in services, surpassing the extractive industries including oil; and it provides one in eleven jobs worldwide, twice as many as the financial sector and five times more than the chemicals sector; and 80 percent of global tourism is driven by small and medium tourism enterprises; then it should not be the case that 80 percent of tourism’s expenditure leaks out of the host countries.”

“Generally, when we discuss and measure foreign direct investments in tourism destinations, we usually refer to large scale hotel developments, airlines, airports and major attractions,” he said.

Bartlett pointed out however, “Tourism is the fastest way to transfer foreign exchange from wealthy countries to developing nations. Not through large-scale investments, but through backward and forward linkages in the tourism sector.”

“When we look at bilateral and multilateral funding in the sector, less than ½ percent of gross development finance went to tourism projects in 2015 – only US$253 million,” he said.

“In order to achieve sustainability in tourism, specifically, to realise inclusive growth,” Bartlett said, “greater attention out to be paid to the tourism value chains through which we will find the real drivers of national development.”