Minister of tourism for Jamaica and founder of the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre, Edmund Bartlett is a powerful voice in international hospitality.
Here he tells Breaking Travel News what must be done to halt the coronavirus pandemic and, in the longer-term, for the tourism sector to recover from the damage wrought.
We need no further reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic has become a global shock of epic proportions. Accordingly, I will depart from the morbid and depressing narrative that you have grown accustomed to over the last several weeks and share with you a message of hope and reflection.
I am of the view that the Covid-19 pandemic will easily be the game-changer of this millennium. While the world has witnessed other deadly pandemics in recent history, such as the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 and the H1NI outbreak of 2009, never before has a pandemic so quickly and frighteningly rendered countries across the world, so powerless and helpless in such a simultaneous and indiscriminate manner.
Suddenly, all the advanced and seemingly impenetrable technological, scientific and military capabilities that some countries have developed to bolster self-defence and geopolitical supremacy have become useless against this indomitable invisible threat; appropriately called the great equaliser.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also reminded us that, in spite of the lines of demarcation that we draw up to separate ourselves in our daily lives such as class, wealth, zip code, job, religion, nationality, there is ultimately one human race sharing the same vulnerabilities and locked into the same fight for its survival.
This pandemic has indeed offered a very profound lesson in humility by showing us that, irrespective of development disparities and against the assumption of the supremacy of some countries, all countries have their moments of strength and weakness that will become self-evident at the right time. In an ironic twist of fate, historically embattled and volatile states and regions have become safer grounds, even if only temporarily, in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic than many countries that have become global symbols of power, control, and security.
This crisis has also forced us to quickly embrace the norms of the future digitalised economy in which business relationships and transactions will become increasingly mediated by digital technology. This new economic paradigm will provide us with an opportunity to discover new modes of functionality and productivity, allow us to balance mobility with responsibility and will help to generate business models that are more resistant to future public health crises. Indeed, the adjustments we are now being forced to make, in terms of shifting to remote services and working remotely, will become the new normal underpinning the ethos of public and private sector organisations in many countries in the post-Covid-19 era.
This crisis has also provided countries with the opportunity to maximise their full potential by un-tapping hidden sources of strength and resilience. Facing isolation, reduced trade, reduced inbound travel and tourism and the possibility of economic recession due to the interconnectedness of the global economy, many countries have now been forced to discover new sources of competitive advantage and survival which they are now locating within their own national borders and which they have traditionally overlooked or underutilised.
In the end, by forcing countries to be more in-ward looking in responding to and adjusting to the exogenous shocks induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, some countries would have chartered their own path to increased self-reliance which will serve them well in the post-Covid-19 era.
In this moment of darkness, fear and uncertainty, the new vicissitudes of life have also helped many of us to appreciate the things that really matter in life-bonding with children, reconnecting with relatives and loved ones, protecting the elderly, being each other brother’s keepers, sharing with the less fortunate, identifying with the suffering of others, paying closer attention to our diet and health and recognizing the temporality of life.
As we continue to fight this crisis together, we are reminded that we have been here before and like we overcame in the past, so shall we again. How quickly we do so will, however, depend significantly on the extent to which we, as citizens, are able to act selflessly and obey precautionary measures, on the one hand, while the state and the private sector must work collaboratively, on the other hand, to deploy resources and lead initiatives to encourage economic resilience as well to help those who are suffering the greatest.
To this end we must continue to:
- Practice social distancing and limit interactions that will increase exposure to infection.
- Observe regulations about public gatherings.
- Desist from circulating misinformation or fake news that can contribute to more panic and confusion.
- Sterilize infrastructure and public facilities.
- Allocate public funds to support the preservation of jobs in both the public and private sector.
- Introduce measures that will reduce taxes and financial burden on the poor.
- Subsidise necessities for the poor including food, housing, medicine etc.
- Partner with the private sector to transform hotels, hostels and residential rentals into accommodation centres for quarantined or infected persons.
- Revisit our travel and tourism institutional structure.
- Prepare plans for public investments.
- Closely examine the preparedness of our education and health care systems to respond to future shocks.
For all the latest from Breaking Travel News on the coronavirus pandemic, take a look here.