Partnerships, Funding & Training Key To Tourism’s Future Success

Partnerships, financing, training, more authentic experiences and the use of technology will be the main keys to the future success of tourism across the region.

This was the consensus shared during a panel discussion at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Forum and Awards Luncheon, held at the Sandals Royal Resort, Maxwell, Christ Church, this morning.

Under the topic, Private – Public Partnership, an in-depth session moderated by CHTA President, Nicola Madden-Greig, saw a robust discussion occur on how Caribbean tourism can remain the number one warm weather destination, while addressing some of the major issues that could impact its sustainability. These topics included climate change and technology, namely artificial intelligence (AI).

Panellist and Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Ian Gooding-Edghill; Minister of Tourism and Transport, Cayman Islands, and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Kenneth Bryan; Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett; Chairperson, Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Renée Coppin, and Chief Executive Officer of Chukka Caribbean, Marc Melville, all shared their perspectives on how private-public partnerships could work to benefit the tourism sector, also referred to as the hospitality industry.

The five panellists agreed that collaboration was the driving force behind the recovery of the Caribbean tourism sector.  According to Mr. Bartlett, this was attributed to persons complying with the COVID-19 health protocols.

“As a result of that, we were able to navigate through the most uncertain period in human history,” he maintained. This downtime, he added, enabled and forced stakeholders to prepare, re-envision, and revamp how they would go about offering the number one revenue earner for most regional countries.

Giving his thoughts on the issue of climate change, Minister Gooding-Edghill stated: “What we have to be very mindful of is the protection of our coastlines….  If the climate crisis continues and it continues to impact our coastal areas, it will certainly impact the future earnings of any regional government and the livelihoods of many people.” 

He said it is in everyone’s interest to do what was necessary to protect our coastlines, so as to remain destinations that offer the best beaches, in addition to other product offerings. 

Chukka’s CEO, Marc Melville, also addressed the role of AI and its likely impact on the industry. He noted that we live in a ‘real-time’ world and people share their experiences automatically, therefore AI could be beneficial in terms of operational response and the “ability to change on a dime”. In addition, he stated that he did not believe that AI would heavily impact personnel positions. 

Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Ian Gooding-Edghill (right) speaking at today’s tourism panel discussion while Minister of Tourism and Transport, Cayman Islands, and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Kenneth Bryan, looks on. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

BHTA Chairperson Renée Coppin, posited that going forward, Caribbean territories needed “to position the industry differently”, and help everyone, especially young people, understand the importance of tourism, while ensuring that there are opportunities for them within the industry. 

She stressed that opportunities were not only needed at the entry-level but also in management positions. Her fellow panellists agreed that the key to this was education and comprehensive training. 

In looking at the future sustainability of the industry, Minister Kenneth Bryan indicated that local support, incentives and funding were key to all businesses in the sector’s survival.

He said it is in both the public and private sectors’ interest “to make sure that our own people get a piece of the pie”, and “from a government perspective, [we] have to be mindful to create initiatives and incentives to build our own”.

On the topic of finance, Minister Ian Gooding-Edghill was of the view that regional companies should also consider creating joint venture arrangements and equity firms to help generate returns. 

Moderator Nicola Madden-Greig concluded the session by noting that tourism does not operate in a vacuum.  She stated that Caribbean countries need to work together across the sector, and private-public partnerships, along with all other stakeholders, must collaborate for the future sustainability of the industry.