Explore new sustainable tourism models as part of COVID recovery – UNDP official

November 5, 2021

Linda Maguire, UNDP Deputy Director, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean

The COVID-19 pandemic presents tourism-based economies like Jamaica with an opportunity to develop a more diversified, inclusive and sustainable tourism model centred on empowered and resilient tourism entrepreneurs from the Medium Small and Micro Enterprise (MSME) sector.

United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Deputy Director of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Linda Maguire proposed this new paradigm while addressing a virtual dialogue on ‘Financial Resilience for Tourism Entrepreneurs’ co-hosted by UNDP, the Government of Jamaica and EU LAC Foundation last week.

“A new sustainable tourism model would mean a shift to a unique market niche that allows tourists to experience all the country has to offer while ensuring the protection of natural capital and contribution to local well-being” said Ms. Maguire. “Strengthening the resilience of tourism MSMEs and developing a more diversified tourism offer for these kinds of enterprises is important as they constitute 80% of tourism enterprises globally, while being susceptible to the negative effects of the pandemic due to their limited resources and access to support.”

Tourism dependent countries like Jamaica have been significantly impacted with an overall economic contraction of 10% in the Jamaican economy in 2020, driven by a 70% contraction in the tourism industry. In this context there is an urgent need to identify effective measures to face the effects of the pandemic with practices aimed at generating resilience and a transformative environment in the different dimensions of sustainable development.

UNDP’s Multi Country Office in Jamaica has supported similar sustainable tourism models over the years including through its GEF Small Grants Programme which has advanced community-based ecotourism and cultural tourism, as well as through the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States-European Union Development Minerals Programme which has supported artisans to improve the quality of the products supplied to local tourist markets through grant funding and training.

Coining a local industry word - MSMTES (MSM Tourism Enterprises) for the sector, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Honorable Edmund Bartlett said, “they are the backbone of the Jamaican economy comprising more than 425,000 companies and representing 90% of the private sector.” He also mentioned “the government moved fairly early to support their COVID response and resilience in order to save the tourism sector by waiving license 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.”

Supporting the sustainability and resilience of the tourism sector is key. Some of the ways to build resilience include strengthening e-commerce and the development of business continuity plans. “Entrepreneurial and financial resilience requires businesses to be agile, innovative, dynamic and to adopt transformational behaviors and actions for a sustainable model,” the Tourism Minister stated.

Adrian Bonilla, EU LAC Executive Director, emphasized that “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, he said, noting that in the current year prospects for developing the sector are improving but require further efforts.”    

The Jamaica dialogue is the third in a series of five virtual events jointly hosted by UNDP and EU-LAC Foundation to discuss policies and initiatives used in the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean for the sustainable recovery of the Tourism sector. The event series is entitled "Good practices and recommendations to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to sustainably transform tourism in Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union. The series seeks to address challenges and opportunities associated with the recovery of a tourism product that is more socially, economically, culturally and environmentally sustainable.