News: Jamaica minister of tourism calls for digital overhaul of sector

Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica, has underscored the need for tourism interests around the world to embrace and leverage a new ‘smart tourism’ model.

Only then could the sector return to success in the post-Covid-19 era, he argued.

The minister was speaking at SAHIC – a two-day hotel investment conference taking place in Panama City and organised by Bench Events.

Bartlett said: “In the long-term, this crisis presents us with an opportunity to harness the potential of digitalisation to drive new tourism experiences.

“In the absence of physical travelling experiences, millions of people in quarantine have been seeking out cultural and travel experiences from their homes.”

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He added that “rapid digitalisation coupled with emerging technologies, such as virtual and augmented realities, can create new forms of cultural experiences, dissemination and new business models with market potential”.

Bartlett highlighted that the international community can expect to see the growth of smart tourism, with more destinations increasing the production of visitation data, such as time spent at attractions, which will aid in crowd management – which he believes is an essential factor in a post-Covid-19 world.

“Smart tourism can be helpful in promoting social distancing by focusing on controlling human traffic to major tourist sites like a museum, a cathedral or a public park, as we seek to maintain the quality of visitors’ experiences,” the minister added.

Bartlett also shared the strategies employed locally that have been impactful, such as the ‘Rediscover Jamaica’ campaign, as well as the health and safety protocols created by the ministry of tourism and its agencies working in collaboration with industry partners and other government stakeholders.

“The Re-discover Jamaica initiative has received tremendously positive reception from local residents, with some hotels reporting 50-60 per cent reservations from locals,” the minister explained.

“As we look to the future, the gap in seasonal downturns in international tourist arrivals and volatility in the global tourism market can be offset by sustaining these staycation packages that target local residents who have traditionally felt excluded from higher-priced all-inclusive vacation packages that are designed to attract international tourists.”

Minister Bartlett last month called for global solidarity in reopening the tourism sector, while also issuing an upbeat message for World Tourism Day.

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SAHIC is a two-day virtual event focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean, which featured nine hours of networking opportunities with key players and strategic sessions with prominent members of the hotel investment community.

Jamaica is considered the World’s Leading Family Tourism Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards.

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