Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Bartlett sets eyes on Africa to further grow tourism

Published:Thursday | September 15, 2022 | 12:11 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands:

As the tourist industry rebounds, the Caribbean is being urged to set its sights on Africa, which Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has described as the next frontier.

The region gets most of its business from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, but African carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and Rwanda Air have met with Bartlett and have expressed optimism about the Caribbean.

In a presentation to journalists attending the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO)/IATA business forum in Grand Cayman, Bartlett announced that he has invited 10 African countries and their tourism ministers to convene in the first Caribbean Africa Tourism Forum next February at the Global Resilience Crisis Management Regional Headquarters at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

A number of tourism ministers from the Caribbean are expected to converge on the centre, which now has satellite centres in six countries across the world and will inaugurate another four by year end, said Bartlett.

“We will be looking at ways and means to join Africa and the Caribbean, in tourism convergence, which is the first in history. We’re excited about that prospect because it’s opening new markets. Africa is the new frontier and this post-COVID recovery is offering an opportunity for new markets,” the Jamaican tourism minister stated.

Bartlett will also lead a delegation of Caribbean tourism ministers to Saudi Arabia in November to meet with their counterparts there.

He noted that getting the region into new markets, such as the Middle East, will connect the Caribbean with Asia, including countries such as India and China; and Northern Africa.

“We already have an MOU with and we’ll be working with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) major airlines – that is the Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Air, Etihad and also the Royal Jordanian airline – thinking about how we can enable the opening of the Middle East, the gateway to the Caribbean,” he told The Gleaner.

The Jamaican tourism minister is looking beyond recovery, but acknowledged that the current growth could slow if not monitored closely.

“Most of us are recovering and recovering well. The challenge is to go from 2019, because now you’re going against a different volume; we are going against where we were two and a half years ago. The reality of recovery is a very strong and arduous task, but growth after recovery is rare and precious,” he said.

He also spoke of a third direction, which is the Commonwealth of 56 countries and nearly three billion people.

“Among them [are] the largest populations in the world – India, then Canada, Australia, South Africa, we in the Caribbean and in the Maldives and the Indian Ocean rim and the Pacific.”

He said the Commonwealth represents the greatest possibility for real convergence with tourism, where soft power and diplomacy can be engaged.

He said that a harmonisation of protocols within that geographic space is needed to enable arrangements such as air connectivity to allow for open skies and freedom of movement within countries.

“These are areas of visitor facilitation that are not beyond us,” Bartlett declared.