Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Global Tourism Conference to examine worker exodus

Published:Friday | January 13, 2023 | 1:05 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, who is also co-chair of the Global Tourism Resilience Centre.
Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, who is also co-chair of the Global Tourism Resilience Centre.


With a massive exodus of workers from the tourism sector worldwide, a group of stakeholders are to examine why many have not returned to work despite the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 45 million employees have not returned to the industry, according to Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, who is also co-chair of the Global Tourism Resilience Centre.

Speaking at the launch of the Global Tourism Resilience Conference on Thursday, Bartlett expressed concerns that while the post-pandemic recovery has not been linear, among the critical elements impacting a return to normalcy has been the disruption of labour-market arrangements.

“Some 72 million persons lost jobs during the pandemic from tourism. As you know, tourism employed five per cent of the global workforce. Of that 72 million, only 18 to 20 per cent have returned. We need to know exactly why they have not gone back,” Bartlett said.

He said it was important for introspection in the sector and an examination of what is included in labour-market arrangements.

“The loss of what I call institutional memory is critical, especially to have a strong recovery,” he added.

Bartlett said the idea was to propose a new charter – a social contract to be established globally – so that there is a wider appreciation of what constitutes an optimal workspace for tourism development.

Traditionally, the industry has had issues in relation to worker stability because they have been seen as seasonal, many staff often getting short-term contracts or engaged during peak periods.

Bartlett said that a team has been set up with an employment-expansion mandate, and on the first day of the conference, February 15, it will lead a discussion on how to enable not just the return of tourism workers, but the creation of the new skill sets to further grow the industry.

With the impending launch of Global Tourism Resilience Day on February 17, Bartlett said there will be an examination of procedures and practices, and a look at new ideas to build the industry’s capacity to respond well to disruptions.

“One, to be able to track disruptions; second, to be able to mitigate against disruptions; thirdly, to be able to manage these disruptions when they call; and fourthly, to recover quickly and safely to thrive after these disruptions,” Bartlett said.

The issue is one of the main items on the agenda for the conference, which will be held at the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre at The University of the West Indies, Mona, from February 15 to 17.

The tourism minister said tourism players and interests are anticipating a fulsome conference.

“This is an earth-breaking international event. We are excited that Jamaica is hosting this very important global activity ... as we chart a new path as we recover better and stronger in tourism from COVID-19,” Bartlett said.

Seven African ministers are expected to attend the event, which will also see the attendance of a delegation from Saudi Arabia, another area of focus for Bartlett over the past year.

The three-day conference will have 40 international speakers addressing about 200 in-person attendees as well as a wider virtual audience.