Speeches / Presentations

Statement by Sarbuland Khan, Senior Counsellor, UNWTO Liaison Office to the UN

Mr Chairman,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to briefly outline how the World Tourism Organization,(UNWTO) has responded to help  the Caribbean countries to cope with the unprecedented destruction, including in the tourism sector, caused  by the recent  catastrophic hurricains,

Given the strategic importance of tourism to the region’s economy and the massive damage the sector has suffered, UNWTO moved rapidly and in close cooperation  with the Caribbean governments and regional organzations to mobilize a coordinated response to the crisis.

On 15 September, UNWTO Secretary General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, convened a high-level  emergency meeting in the context of the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China, to assess and respond  to the  devastation in tourism infrastructure and destinations caused by  this major natural disaster.. The meeting. was attended by the affected Caribbean  member states as well as by several donor countries, development partners and key players in the tourism sector, such as World Tourism amd Travel Council and other privte sector organizations.:

It was recognized that in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, tourism is facing an unprecednted challenge. The devastation caused by one of history’s largest storms, especially in the Caribbean region, is a direct strike at the tourism industry that fuels the islands’ economic engine, with the harm caused incalculable in both human and economic terms. It was also widely recognized that  revival of tourism is the fastest way to recovery in the region.

In the longer term the key questions will be: How to build resilience  by strengthening construction codes and improving urban and infrastructure planning to withstand the growing intensity of disasters resulting from  climate change. How to enhance regional capacity for  preparedness, monitoring and disaster management and response by leveraging technolgical advances and innovations? And, how to engage the private sector and development partners for financial  and technical support to achieve resiliense in the region?

But for now  the hospitality and tourism industries in the region have only one priority: getting back to work and getting their businesses open again..

Three lines of action were identified:

–           First, supporting the recovery of the affected destinations through engagement of the private sector,and aid agencies. Special attention needs to be given to SMEs due to their lack of means to rebuild and recover.

–           Second, sharing experiences on resilience and crisis management, and

–           Third, developing strong and coordinated communicatio..

A working group was created to follow up on the meeting’s discussions in close coordination with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

The recovery of affected destinations will take centre stage at the UNWTO/Government of Jamaica/World Bank Conference taking place in Jamaica later this month.

The UNWTO Secretary General conveyed these results and the concerns and needs of the tourism sector in the region to the recent meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board held in New York and has appealed for coordinated action by the UN system in support of the region at this time of need.

At a follow-up meeting held  in Grenada on 11 October, in the context of the State of Tourism Conference, the establishment of a Strategic Framework for the Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team was proposed. The main task of the Team would be to coordinate the tourism product restoration efforts of affected Caribbean countries and incorporate the elements of a regional public-private sector tourism initiative already adopted by the CARICOM Heads of Governments in July, 2017.

The priority areas of focus for the Team will be:

  • Securing and coordinating the technical and capacity building support essential to the success of the efforts of the region;
  • Developing and executing a communication strategy directed at the travelling public and travel industry partners to mitigate the impact of lost business and provide ongoing information regarding the status of affected destinations;
  • Engaging regional and global Multilateral and bilateral agencies in the process of supporting, developing, and executing a regional tourism recovery initiative;
  • Adopting a public-private partnership approach to fully engage the private sector in the recoveryprocess;. Looking to the future, a special session will be held in the framework of the forthcoming Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism,  taking place next week, on 27-29 November 2017 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It will be attended by key players in the Tourism Sector who will share their experiences and best practices with regard to Risk and Crisis Management. The theme of the session will  be: ‘Building Resiliense: Supporting Caribbean Tourism to Prepare, Manage and Recover from Crisis. The main goal will be to develop and provide policy-makers with the tools necessary to prepare, manage and recover from crisis.

Building resilience in the face of natural disasters is both a humanitarian and economic necessity, specially for regions like the Caribbean where tourism is a major source of income and fuels the islands’ economies and societies. Therefore, it is essential for the region to have a functioning crisis preparation, management and recovery process that involves both the public and private sectors.

This meeting will explore potential strategies for the tourism sector in the Caribbean to recover, as well as look towards a long term plan for future preparation, management and recovery. Furthermore, the importance of the private sector and aid agencies in the recovery process will be discussed, in addition to innovative public-private partnerships (PPPs) essential to building resilience.

Mr. Chairman,

As this brief overview shows, UNWTO is fully engaged in working with the Caribbean  countries in developing a coordinated response to the crisis and will remain equally committed  to do so until  the tourism sector in the region is back on its feet again.

I thank you.