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Financial resilience needed for tourism entrepreneurs

Stemming from significant fall-outs in the tourism sector as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, small and vulnerable states such as Jamaica are being urged to develop a more diversified, inclusive and sustainable tourism model centred on empowering and building financial resilience for entrepreneurs in the industry.

Speaking at a recent virtual forum co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean Linda Maguire called for a new paradigm, one, she said, which could allow tourist to enjoy all of a destination as they also forge greater levels of integration and contribute to local commerce in the process.

“Strengthening the resilience of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and developing a more diversified tourism offer for these kinds of enterprises is important as they constitute 80 per cent of tourism enterprises globally,” Maguire said.

She said that based on the high level of susceptibility to the pandemic among this group, worsened by their limited access to resources and support, more needs to be done in creating financial opportunities along with a diversified and more inclusive model that will serve the interest of all.

“The Government moved fairly early to support their COVID response and resilience in order to save the tourism sector by waiving licence fees, building out a robust infrastructure for retooling and recovering; loan facilitation and grants and an e-commerce delivery solution to enable business continuity…”

— Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism, Jamaica

The UNDP, through its multi-country office, said that locally it has supported similar sustainable tourism models over the years through its GEF Small Grants Programme which has advanced community-based eco-tourism and cultural tourism, as well as through the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States-European Union Development Minerals Programme which has helped artisans to improve the quality of the products supplied to local tourist markets through grant funding and training.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, commenting on the matter, said that locally steps were being taken to build out stronger financial support for tourism entrepreneurs whom he said were the backbone of the economy, comprising more than 425,000 companies and representing approximately 90 per cent of the private sector.

Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, addresses a digital press conference on April 17, 2020. (File photo)

“The Government moved fairly early to support their COVID response and resilience in order to save the tourism sector by waiving licence fees, building out a robust infrastructure for retooling and recovering; loan facilitation and grants and an e-commerce delivery solution to enable business continuity during curfew hours,” he said.

Citing the need for support, sustainability and resilience as critical to the sector, particularly among smaller players or MSMTEs (MSM tourism enterprises), as they are referred to in the industry, the minister further underscored the engagement of e-commerce and the development of business continuity plans as useful to the buildout of varying levels of resilience.

“Entrepreneurial and financial resilience requires businesses to be agile, innovative, dynamic and to adopt transformational behaviours and actions for a sustainable model,” he said.

In tourism-dependent countries such as Jamaica, which has been negatively affected by the pandemic, after having lost out on about 70 per cent of its business last year, stakeholders have acquiesced that it is now time to craft new models which encourages practices aimed at generating resilience and a transformative environment.

“COVID has severely impacted tourism across the world with exponential declines in related services in Latin America and the Caribbean, huge drop in income and GDP. There is an opportunity to build a new tourism product that is sustainable and resilient,” added Adrian Bonilla, executive director of EU, LAC.